A Theory of Thrills, Sublime and Epiphany in Literature

Fabb, Nigel (2022) A Theory of Thrills, Sublime and Epiphany in Literature. Anthem Press, London. ISBN 9781839984815

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This book groups together three kinds of experience: the experience of the sublime, of 'epiphany' which is generally a profound experience of something ordinary, and the feeling of 'thrills' which can be a shiver down the spine or sudden tears. These 'strong experiences' have been extensively studied, but almost always separately from one another, and in a variety of disciplines, and so this is the first major attempt to bring them together under a relatively simple psychological account. The book reviews some of the work on the sublime and epiphanies, including life-changing epiphanies, in the literary critical, philosophical and psychological literature. It explores how we can feel that we know things which are deeply important without being able to put what we know into words, and it also offers an introduction to some basic psychological ideas about knowledge. The book focuses on the physical aspects of the experience, and their relation to emotions, and looks in detail at what the body actually does when we feel goosebumps and similar sensations. It continues to outline some of the simple psychological notions which support this account of strong experiences, including how surprise works, and other related notions such as curiosity, attention and empathy, and why ordinary things can sometimes be perceived as though they are sources of profound insight. The final section briefly summarises various devices in literary texts which can be used to trigger strong experiences in a reader. It concludes by noting that our strong experiences of literary texts and other aesthetic objects are related to our more general aesthetic experience.


Fabb, Nigel ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4820-7612;