Historical Narrative and the “Paradox of Suspense”: The 50 Days of Egon Krenz

Lee-Price, Simon (2018) Historical Narrative and the “Paradox of Suspense”: The 50 Days of Egon Krenz. In: Storytelling Conference, 10th-11th July, University of Suffolk, Suffolk.

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It is generally accepted that we can feel suspense in response to narratives whose outcome we already know. Yet since common sense tells us suspense requires uncertainty, how can this be possible? Yanal (1996) calls this apparent contradiction ‘the paradox of suspense,’ and he and other authors have sought to answer it. For example, Carroll (2003) proposes we make a distinction between ‘actual’ and ‘entertained’ uncertainty. Gerrig (1997) contends that uncertainty can persist even when a narrative’s outcome is known, while Smuts (2008) denies that suspense requires uncertainty. Yanal (1996, 1999) and Prieto-Pablos (1998) have focused on the emotion of suspense itself, suggesting that the feeling experienced by ‘repeaters’ is not true suspense. Uidhir (2011) argues that suspense is not a genuine or distinct emotion. The existing scholarship focuses predominantly on fictional narratives; however, historical narratives that succeed in creating suspense, especially when they recount highly familiar events, would seem to present a distinct form of the paradox. In this paper, I will take the historical documentary The 50 Days of Egon Krenz (2016) as a case study to assess key propositions of the aforementioned authors. Can this documentary still be suspenseful, despite our certain knowledge that the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989 and Egon Krenz, the last Communist leader of the German Democratic Republic, failed to prevent the system he represented from being overthrown? I will conclude that the paradox of suspense can provide a lens through which to examine readers’ and viewers’ complex engagement with historical narratives.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Depositing User: Dr Simon Lee-Price
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2020 08:55
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2020 08:55
URI: https://bnu.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/18090

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