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Affective Narratology

The Emotional Structure of Stories

Patrick Colm Hogan

Publication Year: 2011

Stories engage our emotions. We’ve known this at least since the days of Plato and Aristotle. What this book helps us to understand now is how our own emotions fundamentally organize and orient stories. In light of recent cognitive research and wide reading in different narrative traditions, Patrick Colm Hogan argues that the structure of stories is a systematic product of human emotion systems. Examining the ways in which incidents, events, episodes, plots, and genres are a function of emotional processes, he demonstrates that emotion systems are absolutely crucial for understanding stories. Hogan also makes a case for the potentially integral role that stories play in the development of our emotional lives. He provides an in-depth account of the function of emotion within story—in widespread genres with romantic, heroic, and sacrificial structures, and more limited genres treating parent/child separation, sexual pursuit, criminality, and revenge—as these appear in a variety of cross-cultural traditions. In the course of the book Hogan develops interpretations of works ranging from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to African oral epics, from Sanskrit comedy to Shakespearean tragedy. Integrating the latest research in affective science with narratology, this book provides a powerful explanatory account of narrative organization.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Frontiers of Narrative


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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p. ix

An earlier version of the discussion of The Injustice Done to Tou Ngo was published as "Narrative Universals, National Sacrifice, and Dou E Yuan" in Ex/Change (Hong Kong) 12 (2005): 18--25. I am grateful to the editor, Zhang Longxi, for very helpful comments and suggestions on an earlier...

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Introduction: A Passion for Plot

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pp. 1-28

Human beings have a passion for plots. Stories are shared in every society, in every age, and in every social context, from intimate personal interactions to impersonal social gatherings. This passion for plots is bound up with the passion of plots, the ways in which stories manifest feelings on the part of authors and characters, as well as the passion from...

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1. Before Stories: Emotional Time and Anna Karenina

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pp. 29-67

Anna Karenina begins with a rift in a family.1 Dolly Oblonsky has discovered that her husband has been having an affair. One morning, a few days after the initial quarrel, Stiva Oblonsky, the husband, wakes up alone in his study. For a moment, he does not remember the rift, or even his own precise location in the home. For a moment he is content, tacitly...

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2. Stories and Works: From Ancient Egypt to Postmodernism

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pp. 69-124

We have considered the elementary units of temporal experience (incidents), their derivation from our emotion systems, their concatenation into larger units (events), and the elaboration of these larger units into complexes (episodes). But clearly that is not the end of the story. In fact, it is not the story at all. In all these cases, we are still dealing with "substory"...

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3. Universal Narrative Prototypes: Sacrifice, Heroism, and Romantic Love

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pp. 125-184

A basic structure for stories begins with fragile or temporary aspect normalcy disrupted by some precipitating event or change in conditions, leading to goal pursuit. The goal pursuit constitutes the bulk of the story. It is obstructed by sometimes severe difficulties, but often still leads to achievement of the goal and a return to normalcy, now with the relevant...

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4. Cross-Cultural Minor Genres: Attachment, Lust, Revenge, and Criminal Justice

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pp. 185-235

Prototypical stories are cross-culturally widespread and generally prominent. They appear to define the dominant genres in the canons of all large written traditions. This is not to say, however, that all individual, canonical stories (not to mention all stories more broadly) fall into these genres--far...

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Afterword: Stories and the Training of Sensibility

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pp. 237-251

In the previous chapters, we considered the ways in which emotions (or emotion systems) make stories. We examined the ways in which incidents, events, episodes, general story structures, works, and genres are a function of emotional processes. But if stories and emotions are so closely...


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pp. 253-264

Works Cited

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pp. 265-277


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pp. 279-293

E-ISBN-13: 9780803237735
E-ISBN-10: 0803237731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803230026
Print-ISBN-10: 0803230028

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Frontiers of Narrative
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OCLC Number: 778433442
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Affective Narratology

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Narration (Rhetoric).
  • Discourse analysis, Narrative.
  • Emotions in literature.
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