Event 3: The Empathy Effect: Teaching literature about the world wars and the Holocaust

Teachers across the world use literary texts and creative writing exercises to teach about conflict, whatever historians may say about this practice. Such use of literary texts is not limited to literature classes, but extends to history lessons, albeit with slightly different aims and framing, and it extends to questions of remembrance, too: how literary texts shape the teaching of certain narratives about the past and why we should continue to value and appreciate these.

This workshop, which will take place at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in Exeter on 12 September 2018, looks to explore the use of literary texts in teaching about the history and the remembrance of the First and Second World Wars and the Holocaust. We invite contributions from researchers and educators across different contexts and institutions, with particular emphasis on a secondary goal in teaching about conflict: the development of students’ capacity for empathy in the broadest sense, as opposed to the specific development of historical empathy. In their March 2017 report, Literature in Britain Today, the Royal Society of Literature concluded that one of the three most important benefits of reading literature, in the eyes of the British public, was to help readers see other points of view. We will interrogate this claim in relation to the use of war writing in the classroom to shed light on the practice of and rationale behind using literary texts and creative writing exercises in teaching about war and genocide.

We welcome contributions from researchers, educators and authors across different sectors that:

  • reflect on the use of literature and/or creative writing in the teaching or commemoration of either WW1, WW2 or the Holocaust
  • discuss practical examples of using literary texts/creative exercises to teach about the world wars
  • consider specifically the link between literature/creative writing and the development of empathy in young people.
  • reflect on the interrelation between literature and history, and/or whether authors have a responsibility to historical accuracy.

Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

The event will be structured around presentations of no more than 20 minutes ensuring maximum time for Q&A.

General queries and abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to Ann-Marie Einhaus (ann-marie.einhaus [at] northumbria.ac.uk) by 31 May 2018. Please include a brief biography outlining your research or teaching expertise as well as name, organisation/institution and contact email.

While the event is free to attend for all, the AHRC is generously providing up to 15 travel subsidies for attendees of up to £100 p.p. Please indicate on your abstract/in your email whether you would like to be considered for the bursary. Priority for the travel subsidies will be given to postgraduate and early career researchers/teachers based outside of Exeter.

Please also refer to our separate Call for Submissions for the associated Creative Writing competition for young people between 11-15 years of age.