Hamlet and the Android: Reading Emotions in Literature
In her self-defined “neo-Stoic” view of emotions, the philosopher Martha Nussbaum adopts a classic eudemonistic perspective and defends the thesis that emotions are not blind forces, but cognitive responses to different situations, as well as forms of evaluative thought. Literature has undoubtedly contributed to the knowledge of emotions by providing an immense repertoire of 'case studies', and has uniquely illustrated the historical and social variations of emotions in relation to changing definitions of human subjectivity, while, at the same time providing its own a special assessment of emotions as cognitive human realities. Literature displays both the ability to represent and to provoke emotions, and it achieves these goals according to its changing poetics, and with a specific awareness of the historical conjunctures in which literary works are produced, as well as of the times and places represented in novels, poems and plays. I will discuss aspects of these issues with reference to an early modern tragedy (Hamlet) and a postmodern novel (Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).
Emotions; cognitive and emotional effects of literature; aesthetic implications of emotions in literature; theories of emotion in post-emotional societies; Hamlet; Philip Dick
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