Understanding through Imagination. The President and Ivanhoe: Reading beyond the facts
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‘Learning to see another human being not as a thing but as a full person is not an automatic event but an achievement that requires overcoming many obstacles, the first of which is the sheer inability to distinguish between the self and other’ writes Martha Nussbaum (Not for Profit 96). In the case of intercultural contact, these obstacles are even harder to overcome since diverging narratives are at play. Familiarizing oneself with foreign cultures and histories can be a tool to get a better understanding of the anonymous stranger. This thesis argues for fiction as a tool to familiarize oneself with the cultural other. Using the novels Ivanhoe (Sir Walter Scott 1819) and The President (Miguel Ángel Asturias 1946), this thesis shows that representing the past does not solely lie in the hands of historians. Not being confined by academic requirements as objectivity and distanciation, art can be an effective tool to provide insight in the cultural other.