Beyond Narrative: Poetry, Emotion and the Perspectival View

British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (4):497-513 (2015)
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Abstract

The view that narrative artworks can offer insights into our lives, in particular, into the nature of the emotions, has gained increasing popularity in recent years. However, talk of narrative often involves reference to a perspective or point of view, which indicates a more fundamental mechanism at work. In this article, I argue that our understanding of the emotions is incomplete without adequate attention to the perspectival structures in which they are embedded. Drawing on Bennett Helm’s theory of emotion, I argue that the narrative view fails to take into account the influence of perspective on the emotions. In order to address this gap in our understanding of the emotions, I highlight a mode of engagement with literature that prioritizes the perspectival features of a work. Focusing on lyric poetry, I argue that non-narrative artworks are those best placed to highlight this fundamental aspect of our emotional experiences.

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Karen Simecek
University of Warwick

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