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Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (Theory and Interpretation of Narrative) Paperback – March 5, 2006
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Zunshine's major focus in the book is on the phenomenon that that psychologists (and many others) refer to as "Theory of Mind," the cognitive process by which we collect facts about another person, assign various labels and levels of reliability to those facts, and construct a narrative about that person's thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It is our theory of mind that allows us to make reasonable guesses about another person's intentions and future actions while, at the same time, understanding that the other person's perspective is different than our own. Most people exercise their theory of mind automatically without realizing that it is an extremely complicated process built into the human mind through hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection in environments where understanding other people's perspectives was vital to survival. It is not until we encounter people with difficulties forming a theory of mind--such as individuals with autism or Asperger's Syndrome--that we realize what a complicated cognitive process it really is.Read more ›
This means that a new exciting way of 'reading Literature' is not for experienced readers the 'answer' but rather another creative contribution, hopefully more insightful, cogent, and aesthetically pleasing than most.
Lisa Zunshine presents such a new way of reading. Drawing from evolutionary psychology, and the new cognitive sciences she makes an effort to read Literature in relation to these new ways of understanding ourselves.
And in fact the center of her effort is on the 'theory of the mind' and the way we as readers read novels, put together clues about people in a way similar to the way we do in our everyday lives- and of course in a way similar to our ancestors have done in their historical struggles for survival. We read according to Zunshine in order to figure out what others are thinking and feeling, and in order to develop an understanding of them which will enable us to better live.
She reads a variety of texts in an effort to illustrate these points, and does so with a certain insightfulness and perceptiveness that make the enterprise richly worthwhile.
This book provides a 'new way of seeing' which helps us ' see more' than we would otherwise, and thus is a valuable contribution to readers, and especially to those who love to read about reading.
Readers without a very specific bookshelf may feel left out for much of the book. Zunshine harps on examples for her theory, ranging from Richardson's Clarissa, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Woolf's Mrs. Dallowy, and Nabokov's Lolita to such extent that unfamiliarity with these texts can distance a reader. Hence, a lot of skimming. But on the bright side, as stated above, Zunshine never broadens her argument beyond a couple key points (Theory of Mind and metarepresentational capacity), so if a reader can grasp even a single example from Zunshine's referent texts, then chances are he can fake the rest.
WHY WE READ FICTION is definite must for literary theory nerds (such as myself), a probable read for psychology buffs, and an easy pass for all others
The novel is particularly suited to mirror these processes and, hence, both hone our own skills and recapitulate the importance of those skills in our evolutionary development. Different genres do this in different ways and at different levels of intensity. The novel has triumphed as a form for other reasons; this is only a single nexus of reasons for its success, but it is an interesting one for the literary student to observe, since it highlights the importance of cognitive science for humanities research.
In general, the humanities have (in their recent incarnations) been wary of science, fearing its dominance and seeking to undermine its truth claims. This is ultimately self-defeating, to the degree that the insights of science are relevant to humanistic study and have existed, in effect, as a grand, missed opportunity.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am not sure how much of this book I understood. What I can say with certainty is the book caused me ruminations that have lead to my deeper understanding of my voracious... Read morePublished 15 months ago by John P MacLean
This is a very interesting and compelling book about the pleasures of using our Theory of Mind in reading, i.e. Read morePublished on June 20, 2014 by Elaine Light
Really enjoyed this insightful book about fiction and Theory of Mind. It's probably not for the general reader, but if you're particularly interested in literature you'll find it... Read morePublished on March 29, 2014 by Lynn A. Weber
I'm far from an expert in literary theory - in fact I've never read any of it before, but I found this book really interesting and engaging. Read morePublished on February 25, 2014 by West End Girl
The very words "fiction" and "novel" can be intimadating to all readers but the student, teacher and scholar, and yet, others do read! Read morePublished on December 21, 2013 by Morrighan
thanks i liked this product and will use it every day thanks for sending it to me i appreciate itPublished on January 25, 2013 by bw
This book is about the intersubjective in fiction as in life. Husserl talks about presupposition-less-ness as a state of open-minded-ness. Read morePublished on June 18, 2012 by Phyllis Antebi Ph.D
Look out, Deconstructionism, you have a new competitor for the title of "Most Useless Branch of Literary Theory"! Read morePublished on May 22, 2012 by Rob Wryter