Literary Universals

Modeled on the study of linguistic universals, the Literary Universals Project has two specific purposes. First, it should facilitate access to established work on literary universals, which has otherwise been scattered. Second, it should foster the advancement of further research on literary universals. These specific purposes should in turn contribute to our more general knowledge about literature and, ultimately, our understanding of the human mind and human society.


(860) 486-2141
University of Connecticut
Department of English
215 Glenbrook Road, U-4025
Storrs, CT 06269-4025

Recent Articles

  • Universal Principles versus Uniformity (on Keen’s “Narrative Empathy”)
    Patrick Colm Hogan, University of Connecticut Suzanne Keen is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on empathy and literature. As such, and also as a feminist and even as a human being aware of the world around her, she is deeply sensitive to the implausibility of claims that people’s empathic responses are all the same. In […]
  • Affective Science and Emotion Studies
    By: Donald Wehrs, Auburn University Contemporary affective science and emotion studies provide crucial context and orientation for literary universals research. They do so, however, against the background of fuzzy and contested notions within the humanities of what “affect” and “emotion” denote and how each bears on the other. Reflecting the philosophical legacy of mind/body dualism, […]
  • Narrative Empathy: A Universal Response to Fiction?
    Suzanne Keen, Washington and Lee University The proposition that narrative empathy[1] qualifies as a literary universal could have no less likely an advocate than me. I have argued that no one narrative reliably evokes empathy from all its readers, listeners, or viewers (Empathy and the Novel, 65-84).  I have also suggested that the co-creative work […]