Literature and emotions: creating emotion effects and affecting readers


The highly prominent issue of emotions in literature
is given impetus by the recent interest in cognitive emotion studies. The contribution of literary studies
with its expertise in rhetoric and poetics is very much needed to avoid treating literary emotions as
simple mirror-images of our everyday emotions. Our project suggests refocusing the study towards
the value-laden and ideologically shaped elements in the rhetorical make-up of the texts. Furthermore,
it extends the study beyond the emotions of characters and readers’ (empathic) reactions to them to
explore the multiple other ways by which literature has an emotional impact on its audience. Any
element of the story world, the points of view, the language itself and the tone (or mood) participate
in creating what we call emotion effects. These are the effects that literary texts trigger on authorial
audiences. Most importantly, we focus on the ways by which literary presentations create and shape
social and “public” (possibly collective) emotions and frame our experience. We explore
underresearched areas and neglected emotions, especially so-called ugly feelings (Ngai 2005).
Insights from the multidisciplinary field of emotion studies and cognitive poetics will inform the
project. The cooperation within the research community for the study of affectivity in language and
literature in HU will bring added interdisciplinary value.
Effective start/end date01/01/201531/12/2018