The Pleasure and pathology of narrative

Susan Green

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Literary texts, in particular novels, provide unique ways of representing and exploring the workings of the human mind. Our capacity and willingness to be immersed in an alternative world through the power of narrative suggests our peculiar sensitivity to this form of communication and its capacity to structure our experience. But our hunger for narrative suggests a desire for knowledge as well as a desire for the 'right' story: when this desiring in the imagination motivates behaviour and affects decisions, narrative can become dangerous. This paper investigates the power of narrative in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement (2001). It explores narrative imagination as an asset as well as an affliction; the role of confabulation; and the destructive power of narrative in terms of what these phenomena, when represented in fiction, can tell us about the human mind.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationASCS09
Subtitle of host publicationproceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science
EditorsWayne Christensen, Elizabeth Schier, John Sutton
Place of PublicationNorth Ryde, NSW
PublisherMacquarie Centre for Cognitive Science
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9780646529189
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventConference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (9th : 2009) - Sydney
Duration: 30 Sep 20092 Oct 2009


ConferenceConference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science (9th : 2009)

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2009 by the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science. Publisher version archived with the permission of the Editor, ASCS09 : Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science. This copy is available for individual, non-commercial use. Permission to reprint/republish this version for other uses must be obtained from the publisher.


  • narrative
  • confabulation
  • literary fiction
  • consciousness


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