Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Walter Benjamin on Empathy

Walter Benjamin posits in his description of the flâneur that 'Empathy is the nature of the intoxication to which the flâneur abandons himself in the crowd. He . . . enjoys the incomparable privilege of being himself and someone else as he sees fit. Like a roving soul in search of a body, he enters another person whenever he wishes...."
(quoted from Heather Marcelle Crickenberger's online exploration of all things Flaneur.)

I think Benjamin's description of the flaneur is a perfect description of what a good writer does - he enters his characters to such a degree that their will is his - he doesn't let his agenda, his message, drive them. If it does, maybe the message is mistaken....? Characters acting at the service of an author's message become wooden, they lack an ingredient essential to good fiction: believability. But empathy is the key - strong empathy - and can that be learned if it hasn't been learned as a child? Just wondering.

No comments:

Post a Comment