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Empathy: A History

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  31 ratings  ·  11 reviews
A surprising, sweeping, and deeply researched history of empathy—from late-nineteenth-century German aesthetics to mirror neurons?

Empathy: A History tells the fascinating and largely unknown story of the first appearance of “empathy” in 1908 and tracks its shifting meanings over the following century. Despite empathy’s ubiquity today, few realize that it began as a transla
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Yale University Press
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This academic treatise is a comprehensively researched tome on the on the evolving meanings of empathy in different disciplines over time. It is more suited for academia than light reading. As I am more interested in social sciences and neurobiology, I found those sections more interesting than the section on early definitions of empathy in art appreciation.

Thanks to NetGalley, Yale University Press, and the author Susan Lanzoni for an advanced electronic reading copy.
Aug 13, 2018 marked it as to-read
When you think there really ought to be a book on something, and a few months later, one appears..!
Literary Redhead
“Empathy: A History” by Susan Lanzoni tells the little known intriguing story of the concept of empathy, from its first appearance in 1908 through its evolution in meaning over the following century. The idea was transformed over time by social scientists and clinical psychologists, who defined empathy as setting aside one’s own feelings to better understand another’s. As WWII drew to a close, the concept of interpersonal empathy became popularized by advice columns, radio and TV, and in later p ...more
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. I would never have guessed that empathy was such a recent development in our society and that it was based on the translation of a German word no less. I recall a philosophy I heard about in collage years ago, whose belief was that the only "real" person was oneself and everyone and everything else was simply here for their own entertainment and amusement and weren't real.anyway. Our society seems to fall somewhere between the two in my opinion. Still the book makes ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Super-interesting long view of the development and deployment of a key concept. Early going is really rich, though by the last third, the book actually felt a bit rushed, piling on the instances of the term's use and development, without lingering to really plumb the cultural meanings deployed there, even as the concept was increasingly adopted across the culture in rich and varied ways--I felt like it was missing a bit of the historicizing-the-present kind of maneuver that the book was so well- ...more
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Empathy: A History by Susan Lanzoni is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-August.

German (einfuhlung or ‘in-feeling’) origin of empathy in 1908, before going on to its expression though art, scientific measurement, advertising, expression theory, sympathetic reproduction, aesthetic sympathy, metakinesis, psychotherapy, as well as its appearances in culture and politics. Its measureability and protocol can be a bit of a slog to read, but my attention returns with the multiple case studies o
Amici Nybråten
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is well worth its investment in time and money.

However, while the book is rich on its subject, it tends to focus too deeply at times on the people behind the history, instead of the thoughts themselves, the experiments and the conclusions, which is the real interesting part.
Mills College Library
152.41 L297 2018
Sara Goldenberg
Sep 29, 2021 rated it it was ok
Exactly as the title states - it's a history, going back hundreds of years. Fasten your seatbelt! ...more
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Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle
This book was extremely interesting, as I did not know the origin of empathy in our society. I was surprised to find that it developed in 1908. Unfortunately in our current society, few have been demonstrating empathy toward others, so this is a timely read.
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Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Empathy: A History give a detailed history of Empathy, more so the word usage. Like most histories it is a little dry, and well organized. Just don't expect to gain an understanding of how Empathy works. [Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC] ...more
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Susan Lanzoni is a historian of psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience and teaches at Harvard’s School of Continuing Education. Her work has been featured in the Atlantic and American Scientist and on Cognoscenti on WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. She lives in Cambridge, MA.

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