Exploring Narratives’ Powers of Emotional Persuasion through Character Involvement: A Working Heuristic

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Abstract

Narratives change people’s minds. This has been shown as early as forty-five years ago, but recently, the persuasive and emotional effects of narratives have received fresh attention, as well as emotions themselves. Both psychology and literature researchers have begun to investigate the particularities of the emotional functioning of narratives and how they persuade, i. e. influence attitudes through having readers experience emotions. Their research, combined with recent appraisal theories of vicarious (i. e. other-oriented) emotions, indicates that the emotional effects of a narrative can be hypothesized about by critics through analyzing the text itself, i. e. the textual situations that characters are placed in and how the contextualized readers may simulate and appraise these situations. These findings, however, have not yet been turned into a workable heuristic which would allow literary critics to analyse textual narratives for their emotional and persuasive effect. I set out to do so in this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247–270
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Literary Theory
Volume10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2017

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