chapter  6
15 Pages

Emotions and Ethics

Implications for Children’s Literature
ByMaria Nikolajeva

In his book Entranced by Story, Hugh Crago argues that the laterality of the brain dictates readers' preference either for stories based on emotions or those based on reason, and that this preference is age-related. Seemingly, emotions and ethics appear on radically different levels of a fictional narrative. Representation of emotions, or emotion ekphrasis, is a part of characterisation, referred to in conventional narrative theory as mental, or interior, representation. One of the major findings of affective psychology is that strong emotions frequently override reason, which has been an ongoing philosophical debate for the past 2,000 years. The conflict between emotions and reason, including a sense of duty, is the central theme of all world literature. Indeed, in children's fiction, emotions are frequently pitched against ethical values. Two major theorists of ethical criticism, Wayne Booth and Martha Nussbaum, focus on the ethics of readers' interaction with fiction rather than on representation of ethical issues.