By Patrick Colm Hogan
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Extra info for Affective Narratology. The Emotional Structure of Stories
It is nonetheless a real goal. He goes to work, organizes his relation to his Before Stories 43 wife and children, interacts with friends and colleagues—all in such a way as to preserve the basic structure of his daily existence. He also has various subsidiary goals, ranging from having access to his wife’s wealth to avoiding unpleasant conflict. When he interprets the situation, when he understands that Dolly has learned of his affair, he places the new knowledge in the context of these goals.
Shame counsels concealment. 4 Our immediate response to this is the wish “to hide, disap36 Before Stories pear, or die” (as Lewis puts it in “Self-Conscious” 748). Note that this sense of shame further enhances Stiva’s self-consciousness about himself as the target of Dolly’s attention. This self-consciousness is likely to make him intensely aware of his own emotional expressions. The salience of these expressions increases the likelihood that he will isolate them in causal attribution for any subsequent incidents in Dolly’s emotional response.
Here we may return to the letter. The letter figures importantly because it is the salient object for causal attribution. Its salience is enhanced by Stiva’s expectation of handing Dolly the pear, an expectation that would draw his attention to anything she is holding, and of course by her following question, with its demonstrative repetition (“What is this? ”), presumably accompanied by appropriate movement. Indeed, the question itself is included in Stiva’s recollection primarily because it converges with Stiva’s attentional focus on the letter as the cause of Dolly’s emotion.