Beyond amusement: language and emotion in narrative comedy

Marszalek, Agnes (2016) Beyond amusement: language and emotion in narrative comedy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis builds on cognitive stylistics, humour studies and psychological approaches to literature, film and television to explore how the stylistic features of comic novels and short stories may shape readers’ experience of comedy. I suggest that our responses to written humorous narratives are triggered by two types of stylistic cue: those which lead to amusement and stabilise our experience of comedy, and those which destabilise it by evoking non-humorous emotions associated with experiencing narrative worlds generally. When presented simultaneously, those cues can trigger complex humorous responses in which amusement is experienced alongside other, often negative, emotions.

In order to investigate how textual elements can influence our emotional experience of humorous narratives, this thesis examines the ways in which stylistic cues affect some of the main experiential features of the narrative worlds of comedy: the moods evoked by the world, our relationships with characters, and our reactions to plot events. Following on from the Introduction and the Literature Review (Chapters 1 and 2), Chapter 3 explores the ways in which stylistic cues may evoke various moods by establishing, reinforcing and disrupting our expectations. Chapter 4 focuses on the role of characterisation in humorous narratives, concentrating on those cues which encourage us to laugh at narrative characters, and those which evoke other, non-humorous responses to them. In Chapter 5, I consider how the presentation of story events affects our experience of humorous plots. I discuss the cues which add humour to the presentation of otherwise problematic events, as well as those which combine humour with more uncomfortable emotions that stem from our reactions to story structures. Chapter 6, finally, provides a summary of the argument and of the contribution to knowledge made by this thesis.

My exploration of the non-humorous side of experiencing narrative comedy offers a key contribution to the study of humorous narratives. By investigating humour as part of a wider narrative world, this thesis moves beyond the analysis of amusing language and towards addressing the complexity of the creation and experience of humour in a narrative world. The interdisciplinary, stylistic-psychological approach adopted here allows for hypotheses to be made not only about the emotional experience of humour in comic novels and short stories, but also about the affective side of narrative comprehension more generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Carnegie Trust.
Keywords: narrative comedy, humour, cognitive stylistics, emotions, amusement, experience, narrative world, mood, characterisation, plot.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Emmott, Dr. Catherine and Alexander, Dr. Marc
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Ms Agnes Marszalek
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7273
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 May 2016 12:24
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2020 08:38

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