Production of Emotions

Perspectives and Functions

by Teresa Bruś (Volume editor) Marcin Tereszewski (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 203 Pages


The essays of this collection are, each in their own way, an attempt to address the centrality of emotions in literary and cultural production in a variety of genres, from medieval moralities to contemporary novels, from English Romanticism to film studies. Emotions are understood as mobile forms or forces, crossing between subjects and locations. The interdisciplinary and diverse nature of this collection reflects the view that emotions are interpersonal and forever slipping beyond our grasp. Yet, in thinking about emotion, we discover unexpected confluences. The contributions in this volume are grouped in five areas which reflect larger categories and provide a valid platform for interpretation of emotions: dynamics of modern culture, history, social sciences, interpersonal contexts, and imagination.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Editors’ Preface
  • Part I – Emotions In Dystopian and Modern Culture
  • Marta Komsta - “They All Look and Speak Like Machines:” A Rational Dystopia in Andrew Acworth’s A New Eden
  • Marcin Tereszewski - The Death of Affect: Embracing Capitalist Alienation in J.G. Ballard’s Fiction
  • Ewa Kowal - Financial and Emotional Geometries in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, Crash by J.G. Ballard and Crash by David Cronenberg
  • Ryszard W. Wolny - Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho (1991): A Study in Consumerist Void of Emotions
  • Stankomir Nicieja - The Foreign City as an Emotional Catalyst: Revisiting Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Part II – Emotions through the Ages
  • Jacek Mydła - Joanna Baillie’s Dramatic Experiments with Strong Passions in the Light of the Idea of Sympathetic Spectatorship
  • Małgorzata Łuczyńska-Hołdys - The Road of Excess Leads to the Palace of Wisdom: Emotions, Superfluity and the Body in Selected Romantic Texts
  • Ewa Błasiak - Emotional Patterns in Morality Plays
  • Part III – Emotions and Social Sciences
  • Tomasz Dobrogoszcz - “Entering an Arena of Adult Emotion:” Briony’s Recognition of Otherness in Ian McEwan’s Atonement
  • Katarzyna Fetlińska - Homo Ludens: The Role of Pleasure in Iain Banks’s The Player of Games
  • Murari Prasad - The Representation of Emotion in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
  • Part IV – Emotions and Interpersonal Context
  • Kornelia Boczkowska - A Transcendental Response to Space Travel and the Alien Contact: Emotion Elicitation in Walt Disney’s and Pavel Klushantsev’s Early Space Age Documentaries
  • Agnieszka Łobodziec - Richard Wright’s Emotionalization of Racial Experience in American Hunger
  • Marek Pawlicki - The Many Faces of Homelessness: Politics, Emotions and Ethics in Nadine Gordimer’s A Guest of Honour
  • Part V – Emotions and Imagination
  • Patrycja Austin - Emotions Written in the Key of Life: Music and Individuality in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go
  • Teresa Bruś - Moments of Emotions: Virginia Woolf Looks at Portraits
  • Elżbieta Litwin - The Triadic Nature of Emotion and Subtext: A Close Semiotic Reading of the “You Shall Not Pass” Scene in Peter Jackson’s Film Adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Notes on Contributors

| 9 →

Editors’ Preface

This book is a collection of selected articles from the PASE Emotion(s) conference held in Wrocław in 2015. The title of this collection, “Production of Emotions,” already hints at the underlying theme informing the collected articles, i.e. an understanding that affect is a product of cultural contexts and literary devices, a product that can act as an agent upon the reader whose emotional responses are the target of intricately crafted narratives; but this product can just as well act as a tympanum registering the subtle vibrations of a particular cultural context. Even if we grant that Darwin was correct in his insistence that emotions derive from an evolutionary past of our species, we have yet to formulate the means of their expression, which is inevitably culturally-bound.

The essays of this collection are, each in their own way, an attempt to address the centrality of emotions in literary and cultural production in a variety of genres, from medieval moralities to contemporary novels, from English Romanticism to film studies. Emotions are understood as mobile forms or forces, crossing between subjects and locations. The interdisciplinary and diverse nature of this collection reflects the view that emotions are interpersonal and forever slipping beyond our grasp. Yet, in thinking emotion, we discover unexpected confluences. The five areas under which the contributions in this volume are grouped reflect larger categories which can provide a valid platform for interpretation of emotions: dynamics of modern culture, history, social sciences, interpersonal contexts, and imagination.

In the first part of our volume the particular emotion that seem to have drawn attention is apathy or at least distorted and perverted versions of socially acceptable emotionality. This is clearly the case in Marta Komsta’s analysis of Andrew Acworth’s A New Eden, a late Victorian dystopian novel depicting an isolated society founded upon radical rationalism, where all traces of emotion-based aspects of human existence have been eradicated as a result of social engineering and state control.

Apathy is a theme that is also picked up by Marcin Tereszewski’s article, where J.G. Ballard’s High Rise and Concrete Island are compared as examples of critical dystopian novels registering the emotionally stultifying effects of urbanization and capitalism with its rampant consumerism. Fredric Jameson’s “waning of affect” is set beside Ballard’s “death of affect” as a possible avenue towards conceptualizing what amounts to Ballard’s critique of postcapitalist experience. Ewa Kowal, on the other hand, develops a comparison of Ballard’s infamous Crash with Dan Gilroy’s 2014 film Nightcrawler, focusing on emotional intensity, both ← 9 | 10 → perverse and pornographic, which serves as an exaggerated mirror to the hedonistic consumerism and voyeurism of today’s mass media. Apart from drawing attention to the many thematic similarities between Crash and Nightcrawler, this paper also addresses interesting distinctions in style and aesthetics.

A similar theme of emotional vacuity pervading a post-industrial and capitalist void can be found in Ryszard Wolny’s exploration Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991). This article outlines the psychological makeup of a Wall Street white-collar psychopath, drawing attention to the defining role of his capitalist environment in evoking the self-alienation and emotional isolation propelling him towards excess and transgression. Stankomir Nicieja’s article continues the theme of postmodern alienation in his consideration of the tenuous emotional bonds found in Sophie Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003). The protagonist’s affective responses are here considered in close relationship with the Far Eastern metropolis that serves as the immediate setting of the movie, a point that the article explores as a play with the already established trope in American literature of the “innocent abroad.”

Considerations of emotions and their expressions are not limited only to the novel and certainly not to contemporary literature. With Jacek Mydła’s and Małgorzata Łuczyńska-Hołdys’s articles, our volume looks to Romantic literature for considerations of emotionality. Jacek Mydła examines the “plays on the passions” by the Scottish poet, Joanna Baillie, in connection to Adam Smith’s theory of moral sentiments, placing particular attention on philosophical links with the notions of sympathy and spectatorship. The author also employs David Hume’s idea of philosophical experimentation to interpret the tragedy on hate, De Monfort, in an effort to show how Baillie’s dramas address psychological, sociological and philosophical dilemmas. Małgorzata Łuczyńska-Hołdys article provides an examination of metaphors and images used to convey emotional excess in English Romantic poetry on the basis of carefully chosen works by Wordsworth, Blake and Shelley. Usually associated with the Romantic sublime and aesthetic experience, emotional excess, as the author argues, is far more complex, being at the same time a path to wisdom and a condition of artistic creativity.

Going even further back to the Middle Ages, Ewa Błasiak’s article challenges the popular view that morality plays are incapable of producing in the audience any emotional response. This thesis is explored on the example of acclaimed modern reproductions of Everyman as well as Arthur Conon Doyle’s The Fires of Fate and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Austrian adaptation Jederman, both plays being part of a revival of morality plays at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The following three articles address emotions in literature through a particular lens rooted in the social sciences, in this case psychology and linguistics. Tomasz ← 10 | 11 → Dobrogoszcz, for example, proposes a Lacanian reading of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, in particular the course of Briony’s emotional development from the fateful misunderstanding by the well to the creation of her writer’s ego. Inconsistencies in Briony’s narrative are teased out in the context of Lacanian theory, where a subject’s passage into the Symbolic Order is bound with a paradoxical relationship with the Other. Katarzyna Fetlińska, on the other hand, takes a cognitive approach to the phenomenon of play in Iain Bank’s novel The Player of Games. Applying a theoretical combination of psychoanalysis and neuroscience, the author examines the role of play-related pleasure in the creation of human consciousness and culture in relation to Bank’s concern with demolishing dualisms, such as mind/body, science/humanism, or nature/culture. Finally, Muradi Prasad’s article approaches the theme of emotions through a linguistic standpoint and explicates the representation of emotion in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (1997) by referring her use of the semiotic systems, choice of diction and syntactic structures. This is a particularly interesting approach, as the narrative presents itself through the language of children, with all their linguistic idiosyncrasies, and through the perspective of adults, whose language evokes a completely different emotional response.

In the following articles, the historical context will have a defining role in how emotions in selected works of literature are approached. Kornelia Boczkowska’s article addresses the different cultural attitudes and perspectives on space exploration during the Cold War as embodied in the American frontier myth and the more utopian Soviet perspective. The basis for this analysis are Walt Disney’s and Pavel Klushantsev’s early space age documentaries, which, according to the author, present more than just a scientifically-minded portrayal of future possibilities, as they can also be seen as producing a transcendental narrative.

Agnieszka Łobodziec explores the loneliness, fear and uncertainty particular to the black American experience as it is presented in Richard Wright’s American Hunger. Especially important in this analysis is how these emotions are structured by the protagonist’s migration from the American South to the North, bringing about in him a developed sense of self-identity.

Another article that centers on the emotional response to a specific social or historic context is Marek Pawlicki’s examination of Nadine Gordimer’s A Guest of Honour. By emphasizing the emotional experience of the novel’s main protagonist in the context of the turbulent political events of his country, the article combines the personal with the political in order to make the case for the ethics of refusing uncritical ideological commitment.

The role of art in evoking emotions and contributing to a sense of identity is explored in Patrycja Austin’s article which focuses on the emotive role of music ← 11 | 12 → and its relation to the emotional lives of the cloned characters of Ishiguro’s 2005 Never Let Me Go. Music here is shown as not only a source of emotions but also a means of constructing the identity of the clones, whose emotional existence is a constant theme of the book and article. Teresa Bruś highlights properties of modulating emotions which accompany acts of looking at portraits in a Virginia Woolf’s nonfiction writings. The author suggests a perspective which opens up charged issues of experience and its emotion-colored transmission. In a more taxonomic vein, Elżbieta Litwin’s article presents a semiotic exploration between representations of emotions in verbal and non-verbal communication on the basis of a minute pragmatic examination of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings. The author deconstructs the cognitive triad of the word – mise–en–scène – emotional action and proposes a typology of the semiotic relationships within the triad.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Novel English literature Film American literature
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 203 pp., 7 b/w fig.

Biographical notes

Teresa Bruś (Volume editor) Marcin Tereszewski (Volume editor)

Teresa Bruś is Associate Professor at the Institute of English Studies at the University of Wrocław. Her research interests include contemporary Canadian literature and life writing. Marcin Tereszewski is Assistant Professor at the University of Wrocław. His research interests include English literature, Samuel Beckett, and literary theory/criticism.


Title: Production of Emotions
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