In many ways I believe that the weakening of the honor culture generally is a great liberation. It does have some bizarre consequences for those of us who cannot tolerate the embarrassing or painful. But on the whole it makes it easier to imagine a positive transition to a cosmopolitan society of equal rights. At the same time it is probably a fact that the cultural encounters between strong honor cultures and weakened or liquidated honor cultures are among the greatest challenges of our time. In 2003 Unni Wikan, a Norwegian anthropologist who is referred to in almost all international research on honor and honor cultures, published For ærens skyld [In Honor of Fadime], a book about the honor killing of the young woman Fadime in Sweden. She writes:

Honor-based violence and honor killings may have come to stay in the new multi-cultural Europe. But lives can be saved and needless suffering avoided if we come to understand better what “honor” is all about and how it can be given a new meaning and used to further humane values. (Wikan 2008, 4)

I think myself that many of our contemporary challenges lie here, rather than in encounters between religions. Unni Wikan cites the Danish-Syrian politician Naser Khader in her book, and he appears to support this viewpoint:

For many traditionalist Muslims, honor and shame are at least as important parts of everyday life as is Islam. More than religion, it is the unwritten rules of honor and shame which perpetuate cultural differences between men and women, the gender-divide, the veiling of women, the significance ascribed to virginity and so on. The entrenchment of honor and shame creates more problems for integration in Denmark than the religion Islam, which in many ways is a pragmatic religion. (Khader 2002. Cited in Wikan, 65).

Therefore, I think it is important for considerably more research on this topic, including research on the development that has made concepts of honor foreign to a degree for many in the late-modern welfare-state society. And more political and cultural dialogue is needed.

Affective Narratology. Conclusion.


All normal people have feelings. Perhaps we have feelings all the time, even if the intensity varies greatly. In order to understand ourselves and others, it is decisive for us to perceive, interpret and respond to our own feelings and those of others. The centuries-long tradition of attempting to make emotion and reason into antagonists, implicitly to marginalize feelings, entails an abstraction that can only be successful as long as feelings are of mild or average intensity. One could also say something similar about the attempt to establish sharp divisions between body and consciousness. The brain is a part of the body that communicates with the rest of it. To abstract the cognitively adapted emotions from the affects of the body can only have limited interest.

Only living organisms have affects, emotions or feelings. Letters of the alphabet, words, sentences and paper do not have them. Still, as humanly created phenomena they can express feelings. As can sounds and visual signals. People have such forms of expression in common with other organisms. Animals and other creatures can express emotions, but as the neurobiologist Antonio Damasio asserts, only people experience feelings. In his vocabulary, feelings are emotions that are perceived and understood as emotions by the one who experiences them.

Emotions are probably not an expression of universal experiences. Certainly, many theoreticians assume a repertoire of emotions that are common for all people, as for example, fear, anger, sorrow, joy, surprise and disgust. Some of these reactions are common to several other mammals as well as humans. Some emotions can be evoked instinctively. But the expression of most emotions can vary, and what evokes them can also be different. The judgement of different emotions’ value is likewise not always the same. Emotions are not just tied to common biological conditions, but also to varying social conditions. Martha Nussbaum claims in Upheavals of Thought. The Intelligence of Emotions that “human beings experience emotions in ways that are shaped both by individual history and by social norms” (Nussbaum 2001, 140). She reckons that emotions are “…elements of our common animality with considerable adaptive significance: so their biological basis is likely to be common to all” (141). But she quickly adds, “But this does not mean that emotions are not differently shaped by different societies” (ibid.). She points out several sources of social variation herself. In the first place, physical conditions play an important role. Among other things different societies are vulnerable to different types of risk, something that naturally has meaning for experiences of fear, for example. Secondly, metaphysical, religious and cosmological belief systems influence our emotional experiences. For example, what one believes is in store for people after death plays an especially big role in emotions such as fear of death and grief over the departed. Thirdly, Nussbaum believes that a society’s cultural specific customs and routines have an effect on an individual’s emotional experiences. She illustrates this by referring to different practices of child rearing, where encouragement for high levels of activity versus immobility naturally will shape emotional experiences in very different ways. Nussbaum also mentions language as a possible factor, but simultaneously urges caution with regard to placing too much weight on linguistic differences as it concerns emotional experiences. The terms one uses about different emotions is probably not decisive in how one experiences them, nor is whether one verbalizes emotional experiences to a greater or lesser degree. She appears to mean that language first and foremost plays a role in showing how different societies create different classifications between feelings and refers to different concepts of love. The fifth factor Nussbaum stresses are social norms generally. She believes that the values of different societies show themselves in emotional expression and experiences, that is, she considers emotions as “evaluative appraisals” (157).


Independent of different verbalizations of emotional experiences, linguistic and written expression of feelings represent advanced linguistic, literary and cultural systems that require competence in order to perceive and interpret. This competence can be learned. Stories, and also fictive stories, can create situations for experimentation and become places to practice emotional understanding. Cognitive narratologists such as Alan Palmer and Lisa Zunshine argue that “the way in which we attempt to make sense of fictional narratives is similar to the way in which we try to make sense of other people. They [Palmer and Zunshine] argue that we understand narratives by understanding the minds of the characters and narrators, that is, their intentions and motivations” (Alber and Fludernik 2010, 12). I think one should add: their feelings, affects and emotions. I also think there is reason to believe that the process can be reversed. We can be better trained to understand both ourselves and other people by reading stories. The same is probably true for stories on film as well. Whether we then become “better” people is another question.

The goal of this book has partly been to present individual analyses of important works with the aim of contributing to the research traditions surrounding the selected works, but the purpose has also partly been by means of these analyses to test some points of view, concepts and areas of focus that hopefully can have a certain transfer value to affective narratological analysis of other works. In this conclusion, I will attempt to summarize some of these elements that I believe can have this transfer value.


A summary of the analyses shows that both space and time elements are important to investigate in an analysis of affective narratology. In addition, the numerous sets of possible emotional sources of stimuli are an important factor in the process of analysis. The emotional subjects involved, both main and minor characters are, of course, also of prime importance.

Emotional space is a broad category that spans concrete places, the places or rooms where literary persons are located, to national or cultural spaces where particular “narrative emotions” stamp the inhabitants’ affective disposition. On the basis of categories like emotional space, one can search for both emotional micro-geographies in literary works and basic cultural macro-geographies. There are examples of both of them in the analyses in this book. Emotionally coded spaces are used by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov. Zosima’s monastery cell is an example. In this case, the space is institutionally and conventionally coded. But emotional space can also be coded by means of the particular literary context, as, for example, the decayed gazebo in the back garden where Dmitri confides in Alyosha, or the various rooms where the Hunger hero lives, the streets where he wanders or the parks where he tries to write. The emotional coding of a literary space will also often depend on which persons are found there at the same time. The emotional charge changes when Dmitri enters Zosima’s monastery cell. The Hunger hero’s emotional state is highly susceptible to people he encounters quite by chance in the streets. The characters positions in relation to each other can also have an emotional effect, as seen in the instance where the Hunger hero meets Ylajali for the first time. They pass by each other a number of times, and there is little doubt that the emotional state of the Hunger hero changes when he is observed from the rear. I would suppose that analytical attention to emotional coding of literary space, such as I have exemplified in this book, could possibly be relevant for affective narratology generally.

Simultaneously, emotional micro-geographies in individual texts can be encompassed by cultural macro-geographies that also can be emotionally coded. As mentioned, Martha Nussbaum asserts that we learn our emotional repertoire from the “narrative emotions” of cultural contexts. In the case of Dostoevsky, the portrayal of The Brothers Karamazov is placed within a larger context where Pan-Slavic ideas are in opposition to impulses from the West. I am convinced myself that the extreme individual passion for truth in both Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and Ibsen’s Brand have contributed to installing a powerful “narrative emotion” in Nordic culture. In Gurresange J.P. Jacobsen made use of a concrete geographical place in Denmark, Gurre, that has a long historical tradition in literature, and this plays a part in the work’s intertextual potential for meaning. The emotional typology in Hunger is ordinarily interpreted in connection with cultural and literary-historical tendencies especially tied to the 1890s. The most thorough attempt in this book in analyzing emotional macro-geographies is tied to feelings of honor and the cultural-historical development and distribution of concepts of honor. The hypothesis is that in our part of the world, we have evolved away from a pronounced honor culture that today is in contrast to what I have called intact honor cultures. Such enormous emotional spaces can be the cause of fundamental cultural conflicts, and are important objects of research not only in specialized literary contexts.


Elements of time in literary description are interesting for affective narratology, among other reasons because duration of emotions plays different roles in people’s lives. Impulse control can vary considerably from person to person, maybe even from situation to situation. This is not a question of traditional narratological techniques for regulating the durability relationship between story and discourse, but rather that what Keith Oatley calls reactive emotions, moods, sentiments, and preferences can be of interest in describing peoples’ emotional dispositions, also the dispositions of literary characters. As was shown in the book’s analyses, Patrick Colm Hogan has suggested several narratological terms that to a certain extent correspond with Oatley’s psychological concepts, that is incidents, events, episodes, stories and work. Both Oatley’s and Hogan’s designations have proven useful in the analyses in this book. The same is true of Alison Jaggar’s concept of gut reactions, which I applied in the analysis of Brand. Both Dmitri and Fyodor Pavlovich proved to have little control over their reactive emotions, and this emerged as intrinsic to their personal fates. It was shown to be equally determinative for the narrative depiction, which was marked by incidents and events. A distinctive feature was that the story moved from affect to affect to just as high a degree as it did from event to event. Not just epic events led to emotional reactions; it was the opposite to the same extent: emotional reactions shaped epic events. Still, in Dmitri’s case we saw that the strong short-lasting affects were combined with a noteworthy and paradoxical lasting love for Katerina Ivanovna. In the case of Ivan and Alyosha, the emotional pattern was to a greater degree characterized by feelings of longer durability, something that did, however, change towards the end of the novel for Ivan. One could say that Dmitri and Ivan manifested low road and high road reactions, respectively. The two also demonstrated another important pattern of differences. Feelings do not exist just in pure forms, no one is characterized by one type of feelings. But the relationship between dissimilar feelings can be different. Ivan manifests ambivalence, where different feelings exist simultaneously in the psyche. Dmitri demonstrates to a greater degree rapid changes between dissimilar emotions, that is, an oscillating affective pattern. We also saw the same pattern in the hero of Hunger. In the comparison between Gurresange and Gurrelieder we observed that the two artists each took his own direction with regard to temporality. Jacobsen wrote mainly by means of using events, while Schönberg had a tendency to fill out ellipses and shape stories. In Hunger we saw that the hero was characterized not just by short-lived emotions, but by momentary impulses, micro-affects, as Hamsun called fractional feelings. They contributed to undermining continuity in the hero’s life. He practically became a victim of his changing emotional impulses, and the narrative presentation was episodic.

Another important aspect respecting the dimension of time is the sequencing of the narrative elements. This is not a question of the traditional narratological interest in synchrony and anachrony. It concerns the tendency or inclination of emotions to be included in combinations which thereby shape psychological scripts and narrative sequences. This is a phenomenon that can be observed from the instinctive types of reactions such as fright/flight (low road reactions) to the comprehensive religious philosophical systems we find in Søren Kierkegaard. So scripts can be determined by more or less universal instincts, by cultural traditions or by individual distinctiveness, so called life scripts. The combinations that different emotions make up in dissimilar literary figures will be of interest for affective narratological analysis. Unexpected, strange or surprising scripts especially will call for interpretation. Unexpected scripts can create enigmas in stories and challenge the reader (and other characters in the story) to consider causal attributions, as Hogan calls them. In The Brothers Karamazov we found several such individual life scripts that shaped tension creating puzzles in the story, and in attempts to understand the persons involved. Still, perhaps the most remarkable example in this book’s analyses was Kierkegaard’s development of emotional scripts into fixed philosophical or existential combinations that almost obtain status as conditions of religious faith. Anxiety, fear and trembling are not just isolated emotions, but are included in two Kierkegaardian “Movements” that lead to faith and existential rest. Emotions’ instinctive, cultural or individual combinations in narrative sequences will often be of special interest in an affective narratological analysis, but they do not necessarily lead to scansion of entire texts by means of instruments such as analeptics or prolepsis.


A third area that often can be of interest in an affective narratology analysis is the source of the stimulus for emotional reactions. There are a great many possibilities, and different literary characters’ inclinations in receiving stimuli from different sources can often contribute to establishing a basis for understanding of the specific figure. Ivan Karamazov was a striking case; he apparently has an ideological impetus as a foundation for his emotional pattern of reactions, but he breaks down towards the end of the story and loses the ability to resist purely hallucinatory stimuli sources. Brand too proves to have a strong ideological basis for his emotions, but it is evident in several instances that he also has spontaneous gut reactions that he must overcome in order to preserve his ideological basis of existence. In both of these cases the emotional reactions to basic stimuli reveals strong tensions in the personalities of the two literary figures. Alyosha demonstrated less inner tension but his emotional pattern also was marked to a high degree by his religious disposition, and in his case this resulted in a relatively durable and stable emotional pattern. In Brand’s case the foundation for the ideological impetus is a definite Christian belief, something that shows that stimuli sources for emotional reactions can be culturally determined. We approach Nussbaum’s “narrative emotions” again, or Ahmed’s outside in emotions. In Hunger we discovered stimuli sources that lie completely on the other end of the scale, the tiny almost unnoticeable sensual influences people can be exposed to in normal everyday situations. Two people pass each other on the street and they touch each other slightly and by chance: This initiates a far-reaching emotional progression. It centers around an insignificant tactile impression (an exteroceptive stimulus) which then begins the entire Ylajali story in Hunger. Hunger also shows to what extent people can react to inner sources of stimuli, impulses from the body itself (proprioceptive reactions), from thoughts and reflections (interoceptive reactions) – or simply from dreams. Among inner sources of stimuli are memories. Examples of this were evident in the postwar literature that was briefly discussed in the chapter on honor feelings. Gunvor Hofmo was perhaps the most conspicuous example, but Hoel’s Meeting at the Milestone also treats to a great extent emotions based in memories.


Initially there are many emotional subjects involved in a story. Traditional narratology’s differentiation of the communicative authorities in a story are also naturally a concern when one places a focus on emotional aspects. The narrator can be an emotional subject and can express his feelings in the story. Those who are narrated about can be emotional subjects and they can be real or fictional, few or many. Those who are reading or listening to the story can also be emotional subjects who respond to the narrative. All three of these authorities can be differentiated. In literary narratives we have on the dispatching side an actual storyteller outside of the text (the author) and an narrator inside the text who can be covert or overt. On the side of reception there will be actual readers or listeners, but an implied reader can also be found in the text. The receptive authority in the text can, similar to the dispatching authority, be obvious or hidden in the text. Among the subjects of the narrative, there can be one or more emotional subjects, and they can be illuminated and elucidated by means of different techniques of focusing or points of view.

In this book the focus has been directed to the texts and the emotional subjects internal to the stories. This means that the book contains literary text analyses. Only to a small degree and in a few cases have the actual authors outside the text and the actual readers been mentioned. Emphasizing these authorities would have demanded other methods of analysis. My ambition has exclusively been to contribute to the development of literary text analysis and the place of emotions therein. It’s nothing new that literary figures’ emotionality is included as a part in interpretation of narrative texts. Still, it is conspicuous that such interpretations often have been tied to specific psychoanalytical theories that act as a filter for the reading of the text (perhaps especially for interpretation of symbols). It has often been a question of theories that are no longer used or used to a small degree by experts who interpret feelings of actual people (for example Freud, Lacan or Kristeva) and in which linking to narrative elements or techniques has been quite weak or ad hoc (as possible exceptions one could name emphasis on literary variants of the “talking cure,” repetition compulsion, and mechanisms of transmission).

There are examples of completely traditional questions of point of view having meaning for analyses in this book. Kierkegaard’s choice when he is portraying an actual variant of the “Knight of Faith” is conspicuous, as I have attempted to show. When a parishioner gets the idea that he is going to do as Abraham did after hearing a sermon in church, Kierkegaard chooses to follow the minister who has delivered the sermon instead of the bewildered parishioner, something that helps to make it easy for the author to weaken the danger of a figure who wants to override “the universal.”

More specific for the analyses of affective narratology in this book is the discovery of so-called emotional trigger figures, that is (most often) minor characters in the story who react to the narrative or to the behavior and expression of feelings of the main characters, and thereby signal to the readers both the intensity of the emotions portrayed and the anticipated reception of them by the reader. There were several of them in Dostoevsky and Ibsen, fewer in Hamsun. Of course, this is connected to the nature of the texts – Hunger is a first person novel, but it is also connected to a literary-historical development. Such “reading instructions” have little place in modern literature. Another interesting element was the use of an analytical plane in the texts’ presentation of emotions. This made it relevant to differentiate between performative and analytical emotionality. In The Brothers Karamazov, partly Zosima, partly the narrator acted as a standard in the text where emotional reactions were analyzed and interpreted, so that the reader gained assistance in understanding what was told. Such authorities became rarer and rarer in modern literature, but found a new position in stream-of-consciousness texts, where the reflective subject is engaged with self analysis, including the analysis of his own emotions. However, in such cases the problematics of reliability are revived in a new way. To a much greater extent than in Zosima’s case, the reader will tend to be skeptical of the Hunger hero’s analyses of the story’s emotional reactions. Most likely with good reason.


The analytical elements that are brought up in this summary are elements that I assume can also be present in other analyses of affective narratology. There is, however, reason to emphasize that analyses of this type naturally only give meaning if they contribute to relevant and renewed readings of interesting texts. The value of this book depends on whether the concrete analyses have shown this to be the case. My purpose has not been to add new standard elements to traditional narratological analysis as we know it from Genette and onwards. Such analyses are apt to wind up with a series of itemizations of textual facts that it is not always so easy to employ in insightful syntheses. My goals in this book have been of a hermeneutic nature. I believe analyses in affective narratology have their foremost value in that context.