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ENGL 1302: Composition & Rhetoric II

This guide was created for Dr. Brinkman's English 1302: Composition & Rhetoric II, spring 2023.


When people tout the benefits of reading, they often focus their energy on the intellectual payoff of sitting down with a good book. Reading, as the argument goes, improves your critical thinking skills, your focus, your knowledge of the world. All of this is irrefutable, of course, and reading should be done for these academic and professional benefits. In recent years, however, more attention has been paid to the social-emotional value of reading, especially as it pertains to consuming fiction. In this paper, we will think about how reading impacts personal well-being and society. Specifically, we will be considering how fiction has the power to create empathy in its readers, benefitting them on both a personal and social level. Reading, that is, has the potential to make a more empathetic society. 

To begin with, read “Why Fiction Is Good for You,” which is linked in the Major Essays module. This essay claims that fiction builds empathy in its readers and it lays out claims that are both backed by scientific research and personal experience. The claims made in this essay are the premise of this whole assignment.  

  • empathy
  • short stories
  • value of reading

Choose one of the following short stories for your research project:

  • Isabel Allende, “And of Clay We Are Created” (p. 28 ff.) 
  • Louise Erdrich, “Love Medicine” (p. 551 ff.) 
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, “I’d Love You to Want Me” (p. 108 ff.) 

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