Understanding the Function of Empathy through Laila Halaby’s West of the Jordan

Ishak Berrebbah

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    Arab American fiction has received great attention in the post-9/11 period. This ethnic literature has been put under a critical lens due to the aspects that shape it and the issues discussed in it. One of the main objectives of Arab American fiction is to bridge cultural differences and appeal to its readers, both Arabs and non-Arabs. This particular objective is achieved by the authors’ willingness to trigger empathetic engagement with their characters. As such, this paper looks at how Laila Halaby’s West of the Jordan (2003) functions in accordance with the poetics of empathy. In other words, the aim of this paper is to show how fiction appeals to its readers through empathy and how empathetic engagement sustains the characters-readers connection, taking West of the Jordan as a literary example. This paper suggests that empathy in fiction is multi-layered and serves different purposes. The arguments are based on a conceptual framework supported by scholarly perspectives of prominent critics and theorists such as Chielozona Eze, Heather Hoyt, and Suzanne Keen, to name just a few.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)75-90
    Number of pages16
    JournalPrague Journal of English Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

    Bibliographical note

    2021 Ishak Berrebbah, published by SciendoThis work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


    • Empathy
    • West of the Jordan
    • Readership
    • Arab American
    • Laila Halaby


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