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wants to happen. However, in a great many other cases, the story may proffer pre-
ferred outcomes independently of the express goals and plans of any of the char-
acters. That is, the story may have its own agenda, as in the cases of all those
fictional lovers who find themselves amorously involved in ways they never
planned and even might have abhorred antecedently.
But however motivated, audiences develop concerns regarding the situa-
tions in stories, and when those concerns are threatened, we tend to react with
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dysphoric (or discomforting) emotions, whereas, when the concern in ques-
tion is abetted by narrative developments, our emotions tend to be euphoric.16
Which particular dysphoric or euphoric emotion is engaged, of course,
depends upon the way in which the text is criterially prefocused. For example,
considering some dysphoric emotions, if I have a pro attitude toward a charac-
ter and he is morally wronged in a way that the text makes criterially salient,
then, all things being equal, I will feel anger, particularly toward those charac-
ters who have wronged him; whereas, if presented with the gross misfortune of
a group that has elicited my concern in a criterially prefocused way, I am apt to
feel pity for them.
Furthermore, euphoric emotions of different sorts also are likely to evolve in
accordance with the way in which the text is criterially prefocused (where our
concerns or desires about the direction of courses of events are also satisfied).
When a character toward whom we bear a pro attitude overcomes obstacles,
saliently posed in the text, we are likely to respond with admiration, whereas the
manifestation of virtually limitless power by an agency of which we approve “ for
instance, nature or a god “ will tend to evoke reverence.
Authors of narratives are able, fairly reliably, to induce the emotions they set out
to evoke “ especially basic emotions (like anger, fear, hatred, and so on) “ because
of the fact that they share a common background (cultural, but biological as well)
with their audiences, both in terms of the criteria relevant to the experience of
specific emotions as well as in terms of what it standardly takes to elicit concern for
given characters and their goals, and for the alternative directions that situations
may take. Inasmuch as authors generally share a common background, cultural and
otherwise, with their audiences, they may use themselves as detectors to gauge how
audiences are likely to respond to their texts.They can use their own reactions to
predict the direction of the standard audience member™s concern, as well as the spe-
cific emotional states the criterial prefocusing will encourage.
Of course, authors are not infallible in this regard. In his book American Psycho,
Brett Easton Ellis expected audiences to respond with hilarity “ because he
intended a postmodern parody “ whereas they greeted the book with disgust.
Nevertheless, with most narrative fiction, such wild mismatches of intended affect
with actual affect are the exception rather than the rule. Most narratives are rela-
tively successful in raising the kind of emotion at which they aim, though not
always in the degree to which they aspire (frequently eliciting too much or too
little of the intended affect).
The reason for what accuracy there is in this matter is that generally, in sharing
a background (an ethos, a moral and emotive repertoire, a cognitive stock, and so
on) with audiences, authors are able to conjecture what their confrères™ reaction
should be in terms of which emotional responses are appropriate to situations
depicted in certain ways.Within the boundaries of certain cultures, there are cer-
tain criteria concerning which emotional responses are normatively correct “ that
is, which emotions certain situations are supposed to elicit. Authors, as members
of that culture, possessed in common with audiences, use their knowledge of what
ART, NARRATIVE, EMOTION 231
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is normatively correct in terms of emotional responses and compose narrative sit-
uations accordingly.Thus, authors can broadly predict how readers will respond to
the events they construct because they know the way in which members of their
culture are supposed to respond emotionally to situations of various sorts.Where
most storytellers fail (when they fail), it seems to me, is usually not in evoking the
emotions they intend to evoke, but in evoking them at the wrong level of inten-
sity. And this, I speculate, is very frequently a matter of the failure to elicit the
appropriate amount or type of concern for the characters and situations depicted.
But, be that as it may, emotional involvement with a narrative depends upon
the combination of a criterially prefocused text with pro and/or con attitudes
about the ways in which the narrative situation can develop “ that is, a combina-
tion of a conception of the situation along with some relevant concerns, prefer-
ences, and desires.Together, these provide necessary and sufficient conditions for
an emotional response to the text to take hold in such a way that the reader,
viewer, or listener becomes emotionally focused, that is, in such a way that the
abiding emotional state fixes and shapes her attention.
Insofar as audience concern often takes its cue from the goals of characters, it
may be tempting to reintroduce the Platonic notion of identification at this point,
claiming that audiences take on the goals of characters in fictional narratives by
identifying with the characters and deriving their (the audiences™) concerns by
means of this process. But this brand of identification cannot provide us with a
general theory of how concerns are engendered by narratives, since the direction
of our concern in many stories runs in different directions from those of the pro-
tagonists. So it cannot, across the board, be the case that, in order to form our con-
cerns, we must be identifying with characters and their express goals. Often we
form our concerns about how the story should go in a paternalistic rather than an
identificatory fashion. Frequently, we do not think that the characters should get
what they want.Thus, identification once again fails as a general account of how
we are emotionally engaged by narratives.
Contra Plato, the mechanism is not a matter of identification. We do not
become the character and acquire her goals. The character™s emotion does not
transmigrate into us. Rather, our preexisting emotional makeup with its standing
recognitional capacities and our preexisting dispositions to certain values and
preferences are mobilized by the text™s providing an affective cement that fixes our
attention on the text and shapes our attention to the evolving story.
Moreover, it will be recalled that Plato tried to explain the function of the
emotions in drama purely in terms of economic necessity. The audience under-
stands little, Plato contends, so the only way to engage it is through the emotions,
understood as irrational forces. I reject this account, because I think that the emo-
tions are connected to cognition. Indeed, addressing the emotions may, in fact,
provide understanding.Thus the elicitation of emotional responses from audiences
is not an alternative to cognition and understanding. Rather, the real function of
the emotions for narrative fictions is, on my account, the management of the
audience™s attention. Of course, successful management of the audience™s attention
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may be economically beneficial. But this may be regarded as a secondary effect
and not the primary reason that emotions are virtually indispensable to fictions.

I V. R A M I F I C AT I O N S F O R R E S E A RC H

If my account of the emotional involvement of the audience with regard to nar-
rative fiction is acceptable, it suggests a certain direction of research. In order to
analyze how a text elicits an emotional response, it is of central importance to iso-
late the way in which the text is criterially prefocused. Using herself as a detector,
the critic begins with a global sense of the emotions that the text has elicited in
her.Then, using the criteria of the emotion in question as a hypothesis, she may
review the way in which the text is articulated to isolate the relevant descriptions
or depictions in the text that instantiate the concept of the emotion in question.
In following this procedure, one can pith the emotive structure of the text.
What “pithing the emotive structure of the text” amounts to here is finding
the aspects of the depictions or descriptions of the object of the emotion that sat-
isfy the necessary conditions for being in whatever emotional state the audience is
in.This is what explaining the emotional state of the audience generally comes to
(along with identifying the concerns or preferences with which the narrative
invests the audience).
For example, I cite the descriptions of the putatively rancid odor of the mon-
ster in a horror fiction because it contributes the satisfaction of one of the neces-
sary conditions of one™s being horrified (viz., that the object of the emotion be
perceived as impure) and thus my citation contributes to explaining why the
audience is horrified by the novel. Of course, it is impossible to predict exhaus-
tively every way in which authors will satisfy the necessary conditions of the
emotional states that concern them. After all, artists can be original. However,
there is room for limited generalization in this area where theorists are able to
identify recurring formulas “ both in terms of constructing emotive salience and
enlisting audience preferences “ that are routinely used to secure certain affects.
Admittedly, this order of research may not always be practicable. For example,
one may not always be able to articulate with precision one™s emotional response
to a text. In that case, one might be better advised to tackle the descriptions and
depictions with an eye to seeing what they make salient and then compare those
saliencies with the criteria for the better known emotional states.This may lead to
a clarification of the emotional address of the text in question. Needless to say, I
would not wish to claim that the emotional address of a text is always unambigu-
ous, nor would I deny that some texts may introduce novel emotional timbres.
Nevertheless, in these cases the procedure that I have recommended is still valu-
able, because it will enable us to identify the general contours of the emotional
ambiguities and novel emotional timbres in the text.
Of course, in many cases, especially those in which we as ordinary readers are
dealing with texts that are remote from us in time and place, we will not be able
to depend on our own emotional responses to the text because we do not have
ART, NARRATIVE, EMOTION 233
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the appropriate cultural background. This is exactly where literary history, film
history, art history, dance history, and the like have an indispensable role to play.
For historians can supply us with the background necessary to make the emotive
address of texts from other cultures and other periods in the history of our own
culture emotionally accessible to us.
My emphasis on the emotional address of texts may trouble some readers who
worry that it makes textual analysis too much like sociology. It may sound as though
I am advocating that we must go out into the field and find out how audiences actu-
ally respond to texts.And yet, I am not proposing that sort of empirical sociology. For
I am concerned with the normatively correct address of the text “ the emotive effect
that the text is supposed to have, or is designed to have on the normal audience.
Some people may find beheadings humorous; but that is not the emotional response
that A Man for All Seasons is designed to promote.Throughout this essay, I have been
concerned with the normatively correct emotional response to texts and with the
structure that encourages that response. This is a matter of textual analysis, albeit
against the background of the culture of the emotions in which the text is produced.
It is not a matter of sociological polling.This, of course, is not said to deny that the
results of sociological polling may be interesting. But in many cases, I suspect that it is
redundant, since to a surprising extent, it seems to me, texts tend to elicit actual emo-
tional responses that are normatively appropriate to them.

V. F I C T I O N A N D T H E E M O T I O N S

So far, I have been developing a framework for understanding our emotional engage-
ment with fictional narratives. In doing so, I have presumed that such engagement is
logically possible. But there are certain theoretical considerations that suggest that the
relations I have attempted to unravel simply can™t obtain. So for the brief remainder
of this essay, let me address those worries in order to allay them.
I have embraced a cognitive theory of the emotions in order to characterize
our involvement with fictional narratives. Cognitive theories of the emotions
maintain that a central component of the emotions is a cognitive state, such as a
belief. But if the requisite cognitive state that is partly constitutive of an emo-
tion must be a belief, as some cognitive theorists contend, then it is difficult to
understand how readers, viewers, and listeners can be emotionally moved by
narrative fictions, because such audiences know the narratives in question are
fictions, and, therefore, do not believe them. To fear x, under one standard
analysis, is, among other things, to believe that x is harmful. But then how can I
be in a state of fear with regard to a vampire novel, since I know that the novel
is a fiction, that vampires do not exist, and, consequently, that the vampires men-
tioned in the novel cannot really be harmful? Similarly, insofar as other emo-
tions involve other sorts of beliefs, which, like fear, putatively cannot be
sustained for persons, objects, and events we know, and, therefore, believe do not
exist, how is any emotional response to fiction possible at all? Perhaps emotional
responses to fiction are just impossible.
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My answer to this challenge relies on my rejection of the supposition that
emotions require beliefs in all cases.17 The cognitive theory of emotions requires a
cognitive component, but, I would argue, the form that component can take is
diverse, including not only beliefs, but thoughts and perhaps even patterns of
attention.18 And, furthermore, the form that is most relevant to understanding our
emotional responses to fictional narratives is thought, not belief.
But what do I mean by “thought” in this context? In order to answer that ques-
tion, let me contrast what I am calling thoughts with beliefs. A belief, for my pur-
poses, can be conceived to be a proposition held in the mind as asserted.To believe
that there is a table in front of me is to be committed to the truth of the assertion of
the proposition “that there is a table in front of me.”A thought, on the other hand,
is a matter of entertaining a proposition in the mind unasserted, as one does when I
ask you to suppose that “Albania has conquered the United States” or to imagine
that “Manhattan Island is made of pizza.” To imagine is to remain neutral about
whether we know or believe whatever it is that we imagine. It is to entertain a
thought-content, to entertain a proposition as unasserted, to understand the mean-
ing of the proposition (to grasp its propositional content), but to refrain from taking
it as an assertion, and, therefore, to be neutral about its truth value.
Moreover, it seems to be indisputable that emotions can be engendered in the
process of holding propositions before the mind unasserted.While cutting vegeta-
bles, imagine putting the very sharp knife in your hand into your eye. One sud-
denly feels a shudder.You need not believe that you are going to put the knife into
your eye. Indeed, you know that you are not going to do this.Yet merely enter-
taining the thought, or the propositional content of the thought (that I am putting
this knife into my eye), can be sufficient for playing a role in causing a tremor of
terror. For emotions may rest on thoughts and not merely upon beliefs.
We can evoke bodily changes in ourselves by means of thoughts.We do this all
the time when we stimulate ourselves sexually in the process of imagining com-
pliant beauties beckoning us to embrace them.Arachnophobes can send a chill of
fear down their spine by imagining that a tarantula is on their back, and most of us
can make ourselves gag with disgust, if we suppose that the food in our mouth is
really someone else™s vomit.Thoughts, that is, can play a role in generating emo-
tional states.
Furthermore, this aspect of the emotions is particularly pertinent to our com-
merce with fictional narratives. For fictions are stories that authors intend readers,
listeners, and viewers to imagine.19 Fictions comprise sentences, or other sense-
bearing vehicles, that communicate propositions to audiences, which propositions
the author of the fiction intends the audience to imagine or to entertain in the
mind unasserted as a result of audience members™ recognition of the author™s
intention that that is what they are meant to do. In making a fiction, an author is
creating an assemblage of propositions for prospective readers, viewers, or listen-
ers, which the author intends to be entertained in thought.The author presenting
a fiction in effect says to the audience:“hold these propositions before your mind
unasserted” “ that is,“suppose p” or “imagine p” or “entertain p unasserted.”
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Thus, if thoughts, as distinct from beliefs, can also support emotional
responses, then we may have emotional responses to fictions concerning situa-
tions, persons, objects, and things that do not exist. For we can imagine or suppose
that they exist, and entertaining unasserted the propositional content of the rele-
vant thoughts can figure in the etiology of an emotional state. Fictions, construed
as propositions to be imagined, supply us with the relevant, unasserted proposi-
tional content, and in entertaining that content as the author mandates, we can be
emotionally moved by fictions. It is not impossible to be moved by fictions. It is
quite natural, as we can see by putting together two theses: (1) the thesis that fic-
tions are propositions that authors proffer to us with the intention that they be
imagined or entertained as unasserted and (2) the thesis that thoughts, construed
as propositions held in mind unasserted, can play the role of the cognitive con-
stituent in the activation of an emotional state.
On my account of our emotional involvement with fictional narratives,
authors present readers, listeners, and viewers with propositions to be imagined
that depict or describe situations that have been criterially prefocused and that
arouse our concern so that we become emotionally focused on the text “ that is,
our attention (1) becomes riveted to the objects of our emotional state (said
objects are lit, in a manner of speaking, in a special phenomenological glow), (2)

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