Imaginative Empathy in Literature: On Husserl’s Theory of Presentification and its Application in Literature Appreciation

Jing Shang


This paper defines the phenomenon of readers’ empathizing fictional figures’ psyche in literature works as imaginative empathy and employs Husserl’s theory of presentification to give it a phenomenological account. Through the analyses of Husserl’s related theory and the descriptions of concrete examples, I argue that the fictional figures’ psyche, though without real presence and ontic position of existence, can be presentified to the readers under the mode of ‘as if’. Imaginative empathy is a guided creative reproduction of the sedimentation of past experience into new experience. Motivated by imaginative empathetic presentification, not only aesthetic feelings, but also the ‘as if’ existential feelings come to the fore. Meanwhile, the readers also unthematically keep their real actual feelings. This shows how the different modes of presentification work together, how closely the present and non-present life of the subject are interwoven with each other, and how manifold the subjective life can be.



Edmund Husserl, imagination, empathy, presentification, literature

Full Text:



Bernet, Rudolf. "Husserls Begriff des Phantasiebewusstseins als Fundierung von Freuds Begriff des Unbewussten.", in Christoph Jamme (ed.). Grundlinien der Vernunftkritik. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1997. 277-306.

Bernet, Rudolf. "Phantasieren und Phantasma bei Husserl und Freud", in Dieter Lohmar, Jagna Brudzińska (eds.) Founding Psychoanalysis Phenomenologically: Phenomenological Theory of Subjectivity and the Psychoanalytic Experience. Dordrecht/Heidelberg/London/New York: Springer, 2012. 15-38.

Depraz, Natalie. Transcendance et incarnation. Paris: Vrin, 1995.

Derrida, Jacques. La voix et le phénomène. Paris: PUF, 1993.

Ferencz-Flatz, Christian. "Zur 'Anschaulichkeit' der Einfühlung bei Husserl." Tijdschrift voor Fi-losofie, Vol.76 (2014): 87-118.

Husserl, Edmund. Cartesianische Meditationen. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1963.

Husserl, Edmund. Zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewustseins. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966.

Husserl, Edmund. Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität I. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

Husserl, Edmund. Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität II. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

Husserl, Edmund. Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität III. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976.

Husserl, Edmund. Phantasie, Bildbewusstsein, Erinnerung. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1980.

Husserl, Edmund. Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie. Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 2013.

Husserl, Edmund. Phantasy, Image Consciousness, Memory. Brough, John (trans.). Dordrecht: Springer, 2005.

Lohmar, Dieter. Phänomenologie der schwachen Phantasie. Heidelberg: Springer, 2008.

Richir, Marc. "Imagination et Phantasia chez Husserl", in Jocelyn Benoist and Vincent Gérard (ed.). Lectures de Husserl. Paris: Ellipses, 2010.143-158.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2020 Labyrinth

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

PRINTED ISSN: 2410-4817

ONLINE ISSN: 1561-8927


Creative Commons License

The online edition of Labyrinth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Published with the suppport of the Cultural Department of the City of Vienna 

Referat Wissenschafts- und Forschungsförderung der Kulturabteilung (MA 7) der Stadt Wien