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The Sympathetic Imagination



In an 1817 letter to Benjamin Bailey, Keats writes, “The Setting Sun will always set me to rights, or if a Sparrow come before my Window, I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel.” What he describes is the sympathetic imagination, how we acquire knowledge of the inner lives of others by extending the imagination. The term “sympathetic imagination” comes to us from Adam Smith: “As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did and never can carry beyond our persons, and it is by the imagination we place ourselves in his situation.” Sponsored by ACETA (The Association of College English Teachers of Alabama) and the Auburn University at Montgomery, this conference broadly considers literature, film, and writing on the importance of sympathy and empathy. More broadly, papers might address phenomenology, the intersection of philosophies and literature, transhumanism, performativity, trauma theory, literary sensation and sensationalism, the nonhuman experience in literature, and other topics related to the conference theme. Submissions in pedagogy and composition and rhetoric are also welcome.

Proposals for the following recurring strands are encouraged. Presenters should indicate in the header of the proposal if they wish to be considered for general panels or strands.

  • Scholarship, Pedagogy, or the Professor Emeritus: Pedagogical discourse continuation strand
  • Talking with and Among the Disciplines: Multi-Inter- disciplinary strand
  • Imagining and Implementing Diversity:  Diversity studies strand
  • Feeling and Describing Gender:  Gender studies strand
  • Creating and Performing the Imagined: Creative writing or performance strand
  • Understanding Social Climate: Social justice strand
  • Proposals of no more than 500 words should be sent no later than Friday, November 20, 2020 to Ashley Kitchens, Executive Secretary, ACETA, Jefferson State Community College, via the interactive link below.
  • Proposals should include the presenter’s name, school affiliation, and position.
  • Panel proposals are also welcome. When proposing a panel, please indicate the names, affiliations, and positions of all members of the panel.
  • Once accepted, individual sessions or group panels will be requested as recordings by a determined date in January to upload to the conference’s secure virtual platform.

Each presenter should limit himself/herself to a 15-minute talk. Presenters must pay only the ACETA membership dues as this is a virtual conference; membership fee is waived for undergraduate presenters.