Edited by Don Kuiken and Mary Beth Oliver
[Scientific Study of Literature 3:2] 2013
► pp. 178–208
The attraction of tragic narrative
Catharsis and other motives
A survey study was conducted to explore why people read about suffering, giving particular attention to the role that catharsis may play. Through an online questionnaire, respondents (N = 67) commented on a popular autobiographical Dutch novel about grief. The questionnaire contained closed and open questions, addressing motives for reading and thoughts and feelings while reading. Results indicated that curiosity about content, style and the author, fueled by media-attention and the author’s status, were the most important motives for reading the novel. Respondents who had experienced a significant loss themselves demonstrated a need for recognition and support. Responses further suggested that “clarification” (gaining deep insight) is a better explanation for the attraction of tragic narrative than “purgation.” Clarification did not appear to be related to fear, and the role of empathic emotions appeared questionable. Cluster analysis did identify a potential “catharsis group,” which combined fear, pity and appreciation for the articulation of grief.
Cited by 8 other publications
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