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It is a crucial moment in the child's awareness that other people have minds that may have different beliefs.

Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction

Quoting the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, Oatley shows how "fiction" relies on a sophisticated grasp of theory of mind: Shakespeare needs five layers of it for Othello, where "Shakespeare intended 1] that his audience realise 2] that the eponymous Moor believed 3] that his servant Iago was being honest when he claimed to know 4] that his beloved Desdemona loved 5] Cassio". It may, therefore, represent an evolutionary advantage: better readers are better able to make judgements about other states of mind.

Oatley cites interesting research by Frank Hakemulder where students read either a chapter of a novel about the life of an Algerian woman or an essay about women's rights in Algeria. Those who read the fiction were then more likely to voice discontent about the present state of affairs in Algeria. It seems an extended proof of the famous passage by George Eliot: "art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot".

That said, singing Schiller's Ode to Joy did not make Nazi officials realise the unity of mankind, nor did weeping over Ossian make Napoleon any less keen on battles.


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Oatley moves between the evidence of psychological experimentation and some fairly standard aspects of literary theory, such as EM Forster's distinction between "flat" and "round" characters. The text is seasoned with apposite quotations from Shakespeare, Jane Austen whom he nimbly describes as a "novelist of social detection" and Chekhov.

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Some of the literary material is more recondite, such as the discussion of the classical Indian theories of Bharata Muni who put "dhvani" or "suggestiveness" as a fundamental component of reading: in short, that the reader "completes" the text. Interesting though Oatley's picture is, it requires nuancing, or at least more subtle interrogation. It may be true, as Robin Dunbar argues, that grooming led to language, but there are intermediate steps between picking nits and "In the beginning was the Word". Firstly, the use of "fiction" needs to be unpacked.

Oatley uses the term to include film, plays, poetry, novels and some biographies and autobiographies.

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The girls were able to identify equally well with both the male and the female protagonist. The boys—exactly as you say—found the story with the female protagonist was difficult to let in, but they were OK with the story that had the male protagonist. Many thanks for your input, Keith. Post a Comment. Pages Home About Books Links. Monday, 15 August Such Stuff as Dreams.

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I am very pleased to announce that today my book Such stuff as dreams: The psychology of fiction Wiley-Blackwell is published in North America. It was published last month in Europe.


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Here is what the kind people at Wiley-Blackwell say about it in their blurb. Such Stuff as Dreams explores how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers. In this ground-breaking work, Oatley richly illustrates how fiction represents, at its core, a model that readers construct in collaboration with the writer.

This waking dream enables us to see ourselves, others, and the everyday world more clearly. Informed by deep scholarly rigor, this is an illuminating and thought-provoking analysis of the transformative power of fiction to enter and engage the mind into revealing profound insights about ourselves and those around us.

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You can order it from Wiley click here , or from Amazon. The idea for my book is to explore the fiction as simulation of social worlds, and to treat a small number of works of literature by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Anton Chekhov, James Baldwin from both a literary and a psychological point of view. Still, his writing is entertaining and he's tapping into a rich vein, and I hope he will explore the subject further. He is the co-author of Understanding Emotions Blackwell, , the most widely used textbook on this subject, and has written three works of fiction, including The Case of Emily V.

Name Index. Subject Index. Du kanske gillar.

Emotions Keith Oatley Inbunden. The Testaments Margaret Atwood Inbunden. Spara som favorit.