Narrative, Emotion, and Insight

Paper or softback
Noël Carroll, John Gibson
Published 31 Jul 2011
List Price £25.95

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“This is an excellent collection of essays assembled to address an important and challenging question: How can we be emotionally moved by, or learn from, fictional narratives—stories composed of persons, things, and events that we know don't exist? The writers address this question from a variety of perspectives and consider a wide range of examples from literature, drama, and film. The result is a lively, informed, thought-provoking discussion of the contentious borderland between art and actuality. The editors have made excellent choices, and the contributors have written clear-headed, incisive essays. This is a first-rate collection that everyone interested in literary aesthetics, the psychology of narrative, or the theory of fiction will need to have. But, more than that, it's a book that anyone curious about the bearing of fictional narratives on the way we think and feel about things in real life will want to read.”

—Ronald Moore, University of Washington

“There is plenty to entertain and stretch the mind in these probing essays by prominent contemporary philosophers. Fresh insight is provided on intractable issues concerning narrative and emotion, with vivid discussion of actual cases from movies like Memento and Sunset Boulevard, to one of Goethe’s lyric poems, sad songs by the likes of Leonard Cohen, discovery plots in tragic drama, and multiple novels and plays. It is the detail of the examples that brings the topics to life and marks the distinctive contribution of this engaging book.”

—Peter Lamarque, University of York

“The contributors to Narrative, Emotion, and Insight address and explore topics of fundamental concern in aesthetics: Can narrative art—inclusive of music, theater, film, and poetry—convey and confirm truths? Can engaging with it educate us about the world or ourselves? What risks do tendencies to narrativize our lives carry? Whatever our verdict on the educative value of narrative art, the first-rate thinkers in this beautifully written volume offer original arguments and insightful analysis.”

—Daniel D. Hutto, University of Hertfordshire

Narrative, Emotion, and Insight is a stunning collection of essays on narrative and the arts. Bringing together the most distinguished figures in the field, it offers exciting new reflections on the nature and significance of narrative in film, literature, music, theater, and life. The essays work together to reveal deep connections among the many different philosophical contexts in which narrative plays a part, generating important new insights and pointing to rich new areas of study.”

—Marya Schechtman, University of Illinois, Chicago

“Stemming from a 2006 conference in Philadelphia, this collection of nine papers in analytic aesthetics gives a fair impression of recent academic preoccupations.”

—M. Donougho, Choice

“The chapters of Narrative, Emotion, and Insight are individually very strong, some first rate: there are some real gems and nothing to seriously complain about. Taken as a whole, the book provides important correctives and advances appropriately modest, convincing but nevertheless deeply insightful claims about the importance of narrative art. It successfully brings to light issues that anyone interested in the philosophy of narrative and emotion should care about and opens the way for new and promising work in this domain.”

—Daniel D. Hutto, Mind

“Noël Carroll and John Gibson’s Narrative, Emotion, and Insight is a thoughtful and wide-ranging anthology in the philosophy of the arts. . . . The resulting essays are as different from one another as one would expect given the open-ended nature of the project, and the essays, on the whole, are also very good: Derek Matravers’ and Peter Goldie’s chapters are particular standouts.”

—James Harold, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“[Narrative, Emotion and Insight] is a rewarding read that will be useful to those working in philosophy of the self, personality psychology, and ethics in addition to aesthetics and philosophy of art.”

—Rafe McGregor, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

While narrative has been one of the liveliest and most productive areas of research in literary theory, discussions of the nature of emotional responses to art and of the cognitive value of art tend to concentrate almost exclusively on the problem of fiction: How can we emote over or learn from fictions? Narrative, Emotion, and Insight explores what would happen if aestheticians framed the matter differently, having narratives—rather than fictional characters and events—as the object of emotional and cognitive attention. The book thus opens up new possibilities for approaching questions about the ethical, educative, and cultural value of art. The nine essays in this volume introduce the study of narrative to contemporary aesthetics.




John Gibson

1 Life, Fiction, and Narrative

Peter Goldie

2 Telling Stories: Narration, Emotion, and Insight in Memento

Berys Gaut

3 Philosophical Insight, Emotion, and Popular Fiction: The Case of Sunset Boulevard

Noël Carroll

4 Thick Narratives

John Gibson

5 Narrative, Emotions, and Autonomy

Amy Mullin

6 Narrative Rehearsal, Expression, and Goethe’s “Wandrers Nachtlied II”

Richard Eldridge

7 Rubber Ring: Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?

Aaron Smuts

8 Discovery Plots in Tragedy

Susan L. Feagin

9 Imagination, Fiction, and Documentary

Derek Matravers

List of Contributors


Noël Carroll is Distinguished Professor in the Philosophy Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

John Gibson is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Louisville.

A collection of essays, written for this volume by leaders in the field, that study the emotional and cognitive significance of narrative and its implications for aesthetics and the philosophy of art.