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Why Do We Care about Literary Characters? Hardcover – December 7, 2009

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Mind reading, a term oft-circulated within cognitive quarters, refers to the human capacity to infer and keep track of the intentional states of others... Vermule's main contention is that literature refines this skill and helps readers cultivate 'Machiavellian intelligence'―her name for the cognitive advantages that may have evolved in the context of an increasingly complex social order.

(Michelle Ty Qui Parle)

Wide-ranging and jaunty... Vermeule is a major voice in the effort to bring the insights of cognitive science (especially evolutionary psychology) to bear on topics in eighteenth-century literary studies... We arrive at a new and exciting take on the familiar terrain of the eighteenth-century novel.

(Jonathan Kramnick Studies in English Literature)

The book reads as a tour through literary evocations of mindedness, written by someone with a keen sense of texts and a sharp interest in the contemporary intellectual scene. It will be of interest to anyone who cares about what literature can teach us about the way our minds work.

(Jonathan Brody Kramnick, Rutgers University)

From the Back Cover

Blakey Vermeule wonders how readers become involved in the lives of fictional characters, people they know do not exist.

This book contributes to the emerging field of evolutionary literary criticism. Vermeule draws upon recent research in cognitive science to understand the mental processes underlying human social interactions without sacrificing solid literary criticism. People interested in literary theory, in cognitive analyses of the arts, and in Darwinian approaches to human culture will find much to ponder in Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?

"Wide-ranging and jaunty... Vermeule is a major voice in the effort to bring the insights of cognitive science (especially evolutionary psychology) to bear on topics in eighteenth-century literary studies... We arrive at a new and exciting take on the familiar terrain of the eighteenth-century novel."― Studies in English Literature

"Mind reading, a term oft-circulated within cognitive quarters, refers to the human capacity to infer and keep track of the intentional states of others... Vermule's main contention is that literature refines this skill and helps readers cultivate 'Machiavellian intelligence'―her name for the cognitive advantages that may have evolved in the context of an increasingly complex social order."― Qui Parle

"The book reads as a tour through literary evocations of mindedness, written by someone with a keen sense of texts and a sharp interest in the contemporary intellectual scene. It will be of interest to anyone who cares about what literature can teach us about the way our minds work."―Jonathan Brody Kramnick, Rutgers University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (December 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801893607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801893605
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,247,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is not a novel, so I don't know why I am asked to indicate how the story is narrated and whether there is sexual content in it. Vermeule's _Why Do We Care about Literary Characters_ is an excellent and readable work of literary analysis. I don't agree with all of the claims, but I do agree with many of them and find them immensely useful in understanding why people read fiction and even why fandoms develop around literary characters. Most of all, I praise Vermeule's writing. It's elegant, clear, and engaging, three things one does not always get in literary analysis these days.
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