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Department of Cognitive Science

The pleasure and pathology of narrative

Susan Green (
Macquarie University, Department of English, Sydney


Literary texts, in particular novels, provide unique ways of representing and exploring the workings of the human mind. Our capacity and willingness to be immersed in an alternative world through the power of narrative suggests our peculiar sensitivity to this form of communication and its capacity to structure our experience. But our hunger for narrative suggests a desire for knowledge as well as a desire for the 'right' story: when this desiring in the imagination motivates behaviour and affects decisions, narrative can become dangerous. This paper investigates the power of narrative in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement (2001). It explores narrative imagination as an asset as well as an affliction; the role of confabulation; and the destructive power of narrative in terms of what these phenomena, when represented in fiction, can tell us about the human mind.

Citation details for this article:

Green, S. (2010). The Pleasure and Pathology of Narrative. In W. Christensen, E. Schier, and J. Sutton (Eds.), ASCS09: Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (pp. 114-118). Sydney: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science.

DOI: 10.5096/ASCS200918
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