The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion

by Patrick Colm Hogan (University of Connecticut, Storrs)

Cambridge University Press and Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, forthcoming.


The first empirically and cognitively based isolation and examination of literary universals and the only extended treatment of their relation to human emotion.

In this path breaking work, Patrick Colm Hogan argues that that there are profound, extensive, and surprising universals in literature and that these universals are bound up with no less profound, extensive, and surprising universals in emotion. Indeed, Hogan maintains that debates over the cultural specificity of emotion have been misdirected because they have largely ignored a vast body of data that bear directly on the way different cultures imagine and experience emotiončliterature.

Following the lead of such linguistic theorists as Noam Chomsky, Hogan begins by explaining what constitutes a literary universal and what methodological principles allow for the rigorous study of literary universals. He goes on to discuss the relation of literature to emotion, drawing on a wide range of experimental research. This leads to the central argument of his book. Citing major canonical works from Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, and the Americas, Hogan argues that there are three narrative structures that recur with remarkable frequency across all or almost all traditions of literature and orature--romantic, heroic, and sacrificial tragi-comedy. Hogan goes on to argue that these genres are generated by simple principles from emotion prototypes. Hogan articulates these prototypes by reference to both literary works and experimental research. Hogan goes on to apply his analysis to lyric poetry, then tests it in relation to Ainu epic poetry. After considering some broader principles of narrative structure, he concludes with an argument that the emotion prototypes themselves result in part from the biology of emotion and in part from social dynamics and cultural ideology. In connection with this, Hogan argues against the common identification of universality with biological endowment, contending that many aspects of social dynamics and cultural ideology are themselves universal, though they are not biologically determined.

Hogan's book will change the way psychologists think about the probative value of literature and the way literary critics think about the psychology of literature. More importantly, it will change the way both groups think about emotion and about the nature and function of narrative.


Introduction: Studying narrative, studying emotion; 1. Literary universals; 2. Emotion and suggestion: Lexical processes in literary experience; 3. Four hypotheses on emotion and narrative; 4. Writing beyond the ending: A problem of narrative, empathy, and ethics; 5. Extending the theory: Emotion prototypes, narrative junctures, and lyric poetry; 6. Testing, revision, and the program of research in narrative universals: Ainu epic and the plot of sacrifice; 7. The structure of stories: Some general principles of plot; Afterward: From the emotional nature of narrative to the narrative nature of emotion; Notes; Works Cited

Series: Studies in Emotion and Social Interaction

2003/320 pp./1 table
0-521-82527-X      Hardback: $65.00