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Plaidoyer pour un renouveau de l'émotion en littérature: soon available in English

La république des lettres —
Plaidoyer pour un renouveau de l'émotion en littérature: soon available in English

Subject discipline : literature, philosophy, pedagogy.

Author's bionote:

Based in Melbourne, Dr. Jean-François Vernay is a bilingual writer and teacher with a doctorate in literature. His literary monograph When Fiction meets Emotions: A New Approach to Interpretation, was originally published in French as Plaidoyer pour un renouveau de l’émotion en littérature (Paris: Complicités, 2013), and shortlisted in Paris for the Prix littéraire du Savoir et de la Recherche 2014 (Literary Prize for Knowledge and Research). Dr Vernay has also written a survey book of Australian literature, Panorama du roman australien des origines à nos jours, Paris: Hermann, 2009 (which is in its fourth edition and now also available as an e-book), and an academic monograph Water from the Moon: Illusion and Reality in the Works of Australian Novelist Christopher Koch, Amherst: Cambria Press, 2007. A Guest Editor for Cercles: Revue pluridisciplinaire du monde anglophone (France) and for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature (USA), Vernay has also published 17 peer-reviewed articles on literary topics. His latest article is forthcoming: “The Truth About Fiction as Possible Worlds.” Journal of Language, Literature and Culture 61:2, August 2014, 133-141.

  • Table of contents: When Fiction meets Emotions: A New Approach to Interpretation



Chapter 1: The multiple possibilities of reading

Chapter 2: Interpretation as an art

Chapter 3: Context matters

Chapter 4: The scene of seduction

Chapter 5: When psychoanalysis meets fiction

Chapter 6: On the art of storytelling

Chapter 7: The novel’s bad faith

Chapter 8: The impossible quest for truth

Chapter 9: Breaking new ground: the psycholiterary approach to fiction


With an argument that is avant-garde in English, When Fiction meets Emotions: A New Approach to Interpretation shows us a new way to value and to read literary fiction by reminding us of the pleasure, the jouissance, to be found in reading. Encouraging us, in an inimitably French way, to see reading fictional works as a seductive affair between reader and writer, in which the reader is an active rather than a passive participant, this new interdisciplinary approach founded on advances in neuroscience, aims to integrate psychology with literary analysis. In doing so, it opens up a space in which the formation of our emotions, our joys and sorrow, loves and hatreds, and everything in between, can be openly examined and discussed.

In this book, Jean-Francois Vernay intervenes in the highly topical and ongoing conversations surrounding such questions as ‘why study literature?’, or even ‘what does it matter if we all read far less than we used to?’ His impassioned answer is that reading literature is a means of cultivating our tastes and shaping our sensibilities, as we ‘try on’ emotions that we might otherwise not have the opportunity to explore. But almost nowhere, he argues, and rarely in formal literature courses, do we see an acknowledgement that the discovery of meaning requires not just the methodical analysis of the different aspects of the story, but also a personal relationship to the text in which the reader’s emotions play a vital role, literally bringing the story to life.

In this argument, Vernay challenges the literary establishment, both French and Anglo-American, over the disconnect between emotion and reason that has characterised many approaches to literary analysis, in both English and French. While the argument specifically targets what he classifies as ‘professional’ readers—namely critics, reviewers, academicians, teachers and students, there is much for the ‘non-professional’ reader to relish here too. Vernay moves nimbly across the successive ranks of traditional literary orthodoxies, looking at them anew with his critical blowtorch, while drawing on some of the greatest twentieth-century European thinkers—such as Todorov, Eco, Barthes, Genette, Jauss, Blanchot, Sartre —to fashion a new way of approaching literary fiction: an interdisciplinary ‘psycholiterary’ approach, guided by advances in psychology. This new approach resonates with the contemporary ‘affective turn’ witnessed in the last decade in the humanities, but goes beyond it to suggest not only new ways of reading, but new ways of teaching literature that defy theoretical straitjackets. Such defiance is only just beginning to awaken in French literary debates, and is completely new in English.

In its original French version, this book, published by Éditions Complicités,in Paris in 2013, was one of nine shortlisted for the major French prize, Le Prix Littéraire du Savoir et de la Recherche (See link below for full info), a prize awarded on the basis of argument, analysis, and reflection in all forms of knowledge and research. Julia Kristeva’s book Pulsions du temps and Alain Finkielkraut’s L’identité malheureuse were also on the same shortlist. The French edition of Vernay’s book has already generated international appeal (see web link 2 below) supporting our view that the English version will generate even more interest, especially given the popularity of French theoretical works in English translation.

This translation is the only one in existence and makes complex theoretical material particularly clear and easy to follow, even for those unfamiliar with European philosophy.

Dr. Carolyne Lee.

Translator's bionote:

Dr Carolyne Lee is a senior lecturer and researcher in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her published research is in the areas of media language and narrative, and their roles in communication and culture. Her research book, Our Very Own Adventure: Towards a Poetics of the Short Story (Melbourne University Press, 2011), advances an argument for the author’s and reader’s co-creation of the psycholinguistic effects of short stories. In addition to this book, she has published two textbooks on media writing, and eighteen refereed research articles and book chapters on the role of language in communication and cultural debates in academic journals and books in Australia, the UK, the US, France, and China. Her latest mainstream publications in Australia are in The Saturday Paper, June 21st 2014 (a long feature article), and in Meanjin Quarterly, March 2014, the latter a translation of a French Goncourt Prize-winning story.

If you are interested in publishing this title, feel free to get in touch with either the author or translator via Linked In.

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