From Narcissism to Empathy: Ibsen’s Plays in the Digital Age
PublisherMonroe Community College
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AbstractThe digital revolution has produced many new forms of communication that present us with the risk of losing touch with one another. As our society increasingly relies on technology as a substitute for face-to-face interaction, there is a tendency among people to form online social groups that reinforce their existing biases and exclude alternative points of view. As a result, social networks—though designed perhaps to cultivate connections—may in fact be producing a more narcissistic society. Empathy, in contradistinction to narcissism, allows us to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone else. Literature (including film and drama), by allowing readers and/or viewers to imaginatively identify with characters different from themselves, fosters empathy and offsets narcissism. This could be precisely why the Humanities have played such a significant role in cultural reform throughout history. In this context, by exploring Henrik Ibsen’s drama, we confront our own selfishness, narcissism, desire for control over others, and fear that they may gain control over us. A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler examine individual freedom from a female perspective, and show us how narcissism—especially in conjunction with intolerance—acts as a corrosive agent to human empathy and compassion.
- Scholars' Day Review