Narrative Structures of Emotions in Nineteenth-Century Prose: Hoffmann, Kierkegaard, Stifter, Ebner-Eschenbach
Panter, Rebecca Ann
This project draws on work in cognitive science to examine the representation of emotions in several works of Germanic literature from an individual-psychological, as opposed to a collective-cultural perspective. The dissertation adopts the view from cognitivist philosophy that what is most essential about emotions is that they are evaluations of information. Theories of artificial intelligence such as Oliver G. Selfridge’s pandemonium model provide a means to conceive of the composite evaluations that are often constitutive of an emotion. This study then traces out structural similarities between the thought processes by which evaluations are reached and the presentational methods of four literary works. This correlation allows these fictions to serve as abstract models for commonly occurring personal and interpersonal situations. Chapter one examines representations in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s <i>Das Fräulein von Scuderi</i> of both an emotion — sympathy — and the phenomenon of intuition. The novella provides evidence that enables a reconstruction of the evaluations that give rise to these mental states in the characters. Chapter two uses <i>The Seducer’s Diary</i> by Søren Kierkegaard to explore infatuation, an emotion whose inception is greatly dependent on particulars of an individual’s personality. A seduction, then, involves setting up echoes of the target’s psychological makeup, which the diary accomplishes through the textual means of the letters embedded in it. Chapter three shows how the text of Adalbert Stifter’s <i>Brigitta</i> reproduces the structure of the mental conditions that cause a person to feel surprised. Finally, chapter four investigates regret, an emotion that occurs when a counterfactual state of affairs persists in an individual’s mental landscape even after all possibility of realizing that state is gone. In Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach’s framed narrative <i>Die Resel</i>, the inner story serves as the counterfactual with which a character in the framing narrative is confronted, thereby textually enacting the mechanism of regret. These works, read in a way that reveals conceptual resonances between narrative structures in the texts and the logical structures underpinning emotions, offer insight into the mechanisms themselves that motivate and guide human beings.