Cognitive approaches to cultural texts are increasingly gaining currency in contemporary debates in literary and cultural studies. Yet they have often been criticized for focusing too narrowly on the interaction between a text and a single, highly abstract reader, and for disregarding both actual readers and the larger historical, political, and cultural context in which a text is produced and consumed. The proposed research project aims at bridging some of the perceived gaps between cognitive narratology and more context and politically oriented approaches. It will use a cognitive approach to explore the narrative strategies employed in a range of ethnic American literary production—specifically by African American, Chicano/a, and Muslim American writers—with a special emphasis on empathy, affect, and emotion in both the production and the reception of such texts. The central aim of the project is to develop a cognitive approach that helps us to investigate the role of empathy and emotion in the literary mediation of ethnic and cultural difference and to gain a better understanding of what larger cultural repercussions such imaginary engagement may have in the contemporary political climate of the United States.