Text and Affect: A Model of Story Understanding

  • David Miall


One standard approach to narrative which is, I take it, derived from Romantic theory, runs through the Russian Formalists, and into current views such as those of Perry and Iser.1 For shorthand I shall call it the defamiliarisation model. It assumes that there is a set of norms and conventions which the text calls into play, only to unsettle them in some way and point to an alternative interpretation of reality, or (in some modernist texts) the impossibility of interpretation in itself. I have adopted this model of narrative as the framework for my own exploration, although I shall have some critical things to say about some of its assumptions, which seem to me to be in need of revision.


Affective Response Repertory Grid Reader Response Affective Element Affective Meaning 
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  1. 1.
    Menakhem Perry, ‘Literary Dynamics: How the Order of a Text Creates its Meanings’, Poetics Today, 1 (1979), 35–61;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Roman Ingarden, The Literary Work of Art, trans. G. Grabowicz (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Michael Riffaterre, ‘Describing Poetic Structures: Two Approaches to Baudelairé s “Les Chats”,’ in Jane P. Tompkins, ed., Reader-Response Criticism from Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980);Google Scholar
  5. Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974);Google Scholar
  6. Christine Brooke-Rose, ‘The Readerhood of Man’, in Susan R. Suleiman and Inge Crosman (eds) The Reader in the Text: Essays on Audience Interpretation (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    For recent statements by Norman Holland and David Bleich see their papers in Charles R. Cooper, ed., Researching Response to Literature and the Teaching of Literature (Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Clare Hanson, Short Stories & Short Fictions, 1880–1980 (London: Macmillan, 1985).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 8.
    As Seymour Chatman accepts: see Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978) p. 128.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Rand Spiro, Avon Crismore and Terence Turner, ‘On the Role of Pervasive Experiential Coloration in Memory’, Text, 2 (1982), 253–62.Google Scholar
  11. For a similar finding, showing that predictions are made by readers of stories but not expository prose, see G. M. Olsen, R. L. Mack and S. A. Duffy, ‘Cognitive Aspects of Genre’, Poetics 10 (1981), 283–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 15.
    Joseph P. Forgas, ‘Affective and Emotional Influences on Episode Representations’, in J. P. Forgas, ed., Social Cognition: Perspectives on Everyday Understanding (London: Academic Press, 1981), 165–80.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    E.g. Forgas’s study of two football teams: see Social Episodes: The Study of Interaction Routines (London: Academic Press, 1979), pp. 182–94.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    V. S. Prichett, Collected Stories (London: Chatto & Windus, 1956).Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980), p. 171.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Clare Hanson 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Miall

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