Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

20 1
EMOTION, NARRATIVE, AND AFFECT: HOW CHILDREN DISCOVER THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WHAT TO SAY AND HOW TO SAY IT

Michael Bamberg
Clark University

Judy Reilly
San Diego State University

In narrative presentations of personal experiences, it is often assumed that narrators relive their past emotional experience, i.e., that they feel parts or shades of the originally felt emotion, and that these feelings are expressed in the act of performing the narrative. In such situations, it may be said that the presentation of the narrator reflects an involved attitude towards his or her original experience.2 However, the issue of involvement is not unique to self-experienced events. The emotional significance of a sequence of events for another person is usually also presented with a certain amount of feeling or involvement in the narrative performance. Again, the narrator can signal an affiliation with or a distance from the way the protagonist in the story felt at that particular time. This affiliating or distancing stance usually is marked by particular evaluative devices. This way the audience learns and is educated about who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys." In the same breath, the narrator legitimates -- or might try to challenge --

____________________
1
This contribution to the festschrift for Susan Ervin-Tripp was originally presented under the title "The expression of affect in narratives" at the 5th Congress of the International Association for the Study of Child Language, held in Budapest in July 1990. Dr. Ervin-Tripp was present at our presentation at that Congress, and with her -- usual -- insightful comments has helped shape our original brief paper into its now -- we hope -- more complete form. Parts of the research presented here were supported by a two-year National Academy of Education Spencer Fellowship to the first author, and by the National Institutes of Health FIRST award # 5R29 DC00539 and BRSG # S07 RR 07004-15 to the second author.
2
Of course, it is possible that a narrator takes a reflective and distanced attitude toward a once experienced emotion, such as in situations where the interpretation or significance of the once experienced constellation of events has changed, and the narrator tries to claim a newly developed evaluative stance (e.g., That's how I felt then, but THIS is how I feel about it now, or even more drastically: That's how I felt then, but I realized soon thereafter, that I SHOULD HAVE felt differently in that situation).

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