- Copyright Page
- List of Illustrations
- Notes on Contributors
- In Ancient Rome
- In the Classroom
- In the Custom House
- In Public
- Across Borders
- Mental Representation
- Mindreading and Social Status
- Dyslexia: Through the Eyes of da Vinci
Abstract and Keywords
What does it mean for one fictional character to be more complex than another? One way to define complexity is to look at characters’ ability to reflect upon their own and other people’s mental states, that is, their ability to embed their own and other’s thoughts and feelings on a higher level. Taking as its starting point studies which have shown that people in weaker social positions engage in more active and perceptive attribution of mental states than people in stronger social positions, this chapter suggests that works of fiction can either follow or invert this real-life association, correlating their characters’ capacity for embedment with their relative social standing. Using case studies from English, Chinese, and Russian literary traditions, this chapter argues that cognition and ideology are bound with each other in a variety of historically specific forms, and that a cognitive-literary inquiry is thus fundamentally a historicist inquiry.
Lisa Zunshine is Bush-Holbrook Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the author and editor of eleven books, including Why We Read Fiction (2006), Strange Concepts and the Stories They Make Possible (2008), Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Popular Culture (2012), and The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (2015).
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