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suspension of disbelief


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The concept that to become emotionally involved in a narrative, audiences must react as if the characters are real and the events are happening now, even though they know it is ‘only a story’. ‘The willing suspension of disbelief for the moment’ was how the British poet Coleridge phrased it in 1817, with reference to the audiences for literary works. Schramm argues that this is a general expectation for all entertainment (see also entertainment function): we are ‘prepared to go along with a story or a spoof or a good joke, to identify and agonize with a character who never lived…to have a certain empathy with fictional characters, to go along with the conventions of films or broadcasts.’

Subjects: Media studies


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