The Extremes of Conflict in Literature: Violence, Homicide, and War

Joseph Carroll

in The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199738403
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 The Extremes of Conflict in Literature: Violence, Homicide, and War

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  • Social Psychology


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Literature depicts emotions arising from conflict and makes them available to readers, who experience them vicariously. Literary meaning lodges itself not in depicted events alone but also, and more importantly, in the interpretation of depicted events: in the author's treatment of the depicted events; the reader's response to both the depicted events and the author's treatment; and the author's anticipation of the reader's responses. This chapter outlines possible stances toward violence, makes an argument for the decisive structural significance of violence in both life and literature, and then presents a representative sampling of violent acts in literature. The examples from literature are organized into the main kinds of human relationships: one's relation to oneself (suicide); sexual rivals, lovers, and marital partners; family members (parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins); communities (violence within social groups); and warfare (violence between social groups).

Keywords: literature; emotions; interpretation; author; reader; suicide; lovers; family; community; war

Article.  17546 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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