How Wonderful is Wonderland?

Negative Emotions in Children’s Literature from an Evolutionary Perspective

  • Nathalie Keighley Kristensen Department of English, Aarhus University
Keywords: literary Darwinism, children's literature, storytelling, vicarious experience, negative emotions


This MA thesis seeks to investigate negative emotions and their function in children’s literature from an evolutionary standpoint. Insights from evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology are used to build an evolutionary framework that is then used in a literary analysis that shows how negative emotions are evoked in literature, and what adaptive purpose(s) they have. The main argument is that we feel strong emotions when engaging in story because storytelling has an adaptive function, and that this function is to provide us with low-risk, vicarious input that can be employed as a future guide for behaviour. This argument explains not only the human proclivity for producing and consuming art, but also why we generally feel pleasure and satisfaction when engaging in stories, no matter the form they take.

How to Cite
Kristensen, N. (2018). How Wonderful is Wonderland?. Leviathan: Interdisciplinary Journal in English, (3), 66-118.