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Fiction evokes emotion. This simple statement creates a cascade of questions. What does it mean to be entertained by fiction? How can one objectively be aware of the fictitious nature of a story and yet become subjectively involved in the narrative? Does humanity have a cultural need for fiction? What is real? This groundbreaking work addresses the specificity of narrative emotion, and scrutinizes the emotions stirred up in reaction to fiction. While the bulk of existing literature on this topic has focused on the erroneous 'paradox of fiction and emotion', this book first identifies the fallacies at the origin of this theory, then elaborates on the ritualization of narrative emotions into conventions and their relation to caring for the sake of another person. By analyzing the emotional responses an audience has to the plight of fictional characters, Deslandes dives into the 'reality' of fiction, which leads to the notion of the 'imaginary real'. Her comprehensive and forward-looking work draws on theory from the realms of philosophy and avant-garde narrative theory to delve into the nature of our emotional reaction to fiction, making it a must-read for scholars.