Howard Sklar, PhD

University Lecturer

Department of Modern Languages (English Philology)

University of Helsinki


Docent in Literary Studies, with a Special Emphasis in Narrative Theory (University of Tampere)

Fiction and the Emotions (2009)


Course Description


In recent years, scholars in literary studies and aesthetics have taken a renewed interest in the relation between fiction and the emotions.   This course will address some of the central questions that have been raised, including:


· The representation of the emotions of characters in fiction

· Readers’ experiences of emotion in response to works of fiction

· Distinctions and similarities between “real” and “aesthetic” emotions

· Narrative techniques that elicit emotions in readers

· Types of emotions that readers experience in response to works of fiction, including empathy, sympathy and fear

· Empirical approaches to the study of reader emotions


We will examine each of these issues, both from a theoretical perspective and in terms of specific works of fiction.


Course Requirements:


· Regular attendance

· Assigned readings

· One short paper (4-5 pages) on a particular theoretical approach to the aesthetics of emotions in fiction

· One short paper (4-5 pages) analyzing a fictional text in terms of its emotional content

· Active participation in discussions


Primary Theoretical Sources (subject to change)


· Selections from Emotion and the Arts (Hjort and Laver, eds., 1997)

· Selection from Empathy and the Novel (Keen 2007)

· “Fearing Fictions” (Walton 1978)

· Selection from Paradoxes of Emotion and Fiction (Yanal 1999)

· Selection(s) from Sympathy and Joyce’s Dubliners: Ethical Probing of Reading, Narrative, and Textuality (Vesala-Varttala 1999)

· Selection(s) from The Art of Sympathy: Forms of Moral and Emotional Persuasion in Fiction (Sklar 2008, doctoral dissertation)

· “Shifting Perspectives: Readers’ Feelings and Literary Response (Miall/Kuiken 2001)


The fictional works to be used in this course (mainly short fiction, but also excerpts from novels) will be announced during the first session.