Emotion and Plot in the Premodern English-Language Novel

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  • Title: Emotion and Plot in the Premodern English-Language Novel
  • Author(s): Cynthia Whissell
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Keywords: Plot, Emotion, English Literature, Dictionary of Affect
  • Date: September 14, 2018
  • ISBN (hbk): 978-1-61229-970-9
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-61229-971-6
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-61229-972-3
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/978-1-61229-972-3/CGP
  • Citation: Whissell, Cynthia . 2018. Emotion and Plot in the Premodern English-Language Novel. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-61229-972-3/CGP.
  • Extent: 162 pages

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The research in this book employs quantitative methods to study the underlying structure of the early English novel. Thirty-nine great novels published before 1914 are analyzed in terms of the emotional implications of their words. Millions of words are quantified with the help of the Dictionary of Affect in Language. Scores are employed to establish an overall emotional description of each novel on the dimension of pleasantness and to reveal its plot structure. Language concreteness and the emotional activation of each novel are also discussed. Interesting findings include the fact that Emma and Little Women are (linguistically) pleasant novels, while Red Badge of Courage and Call of the Wild are unpleasant. Wuthering Heights has a very complex plot structure while Tom Jones has a simple one, basically increasing in pleasantness throughout. Because of its concrete language, tragic plot, and unpleasant tone, Moby-Dick belongs to a group of cold, melancholy novels.