The role of empathy between cognition and aesthetic sense-making
: the case of tragedy and the myth of Medea

  • Federico Rudari (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Adopting a phenomenological and cognitive semiotic approach, the dissertation defines and discusses empathy and the empathic process highlighting its role in intersubjective contexts and encounters, as well as a tool for comprehension of the unity between observer and artistic object. This peculiar form of knowledge pertains to the original experience of outer objects’ perception, which is influenced by memory of previous knowledge, reservoir of meaning in the phenomenal unity with the other (Zahavi 2010, 2012), and different cognitive devices (metaphors, narrative and semantic domains) which contribute to the shift from observation to comprehension. The dissertation aims to explain how empathy’s epistemic attitude allows an embodied form of understanding, which occurs in the narratological experience of another subject’s states and the aesthetic contemplation of artistic works. In this context, meaning is profoundly linked with emotional, physical and mental dimensions of sense-making: the dissertation analyses visual, embodied and cognitive reactions evoked by aesthetic stimuli and the way spectators’ patterns of consciousness are able to emotionally respond to the experience of artworks.Furthermore, the theoretical study on empathy is applied to the examination of tragedy, acknowledging its relevance in shaping the evolution of literary and performative representation through time. Addressing the significative particularities of tragedy and its characters, the research will focus on the myth of Medea across history, both in its literary depiction by Euripides (432 BC) and the film adaptation directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1969).
Date of Award15 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorAna Margarida Abrantes (Supervisor)


  • Empathy
  • Comprehension
  • Intersubjective exchange
  • Aesthetic perception
  • Domains of experience
  • Embodiment
  • Tragedy
  • Mimesis
  • Medea


  • Mestrado em Estudos de Cultura

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