Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel

  • by Lisa Zunshine
  • Narrated by Rosemary Benson
  • 8 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Why We Read Fiction offers a lucid overview of the most exciting area of research in contemporary cognitive psychology known as “Theory of Mind” and discusses its implications for literary studies. It covers a broad range of fictional narratives, from Richardson's Clarissa, Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and Austen's Pride and Prejudice to Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Nabokov's Lolita, and Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.
Zunshine's surprising new interpretations of well-known literary texts and popular cultural representations constantly prod her listeners to rethink their own interest in fictional narrative. Written for a general audience, this study provides a jargon-free introduction to the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field known as cognitive approaches to literature and culture.
The book is published by The Ohio State University Press.


What the Critics Say

“Zunshine proved beyond doubt that even the more conservative literary student who just wants a better reading or understanding of a specific novel stands to gain considerably by adopting the cognitive outlook and vocabulary she suggests.” (Uri Margolin, University of Alberta)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Theory of the Reader

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not really. I was looking forward to learning about theory of mind, particulary as it relates to fiction, but the presentation of the book was so monotone, and so clinical in its delivery, that I frequently lost interest in the direction it was moving. Ironically, you would think a book about deciphering what another person is thinking/perceiving would do a better job of reaching out to the reader.

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- Matt

Classic in the 'cognitive turn' in the humanities

If you could sum up Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel in three words, what would they be?

This book explains why we can read fictional minds in a similar way that we can read real minds.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel?

I think the reading of Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa" is the best section.

Which character – as performed by Rosemary Benson – was your favorite?

It is a work of nonfiction, so this question is not applicable.

If you could rename Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel, what would you call it?

I think the title is pretty good. I wouldn't change it.

Any additional comments?

If you ever wondered what cognitive science has to say about literary criticism, this book is a great place to start. I think it helps if you have read the texts discussed -- Richardson's "Clarissa" and Nabokov's "Lolita" would be particularly helpful, but you can follow along even if you have not read these novels. She also discusses theory of mind in detective fiction. You can also buy the ebook on Amazon for $1.99, I think, if you like to follow along while you are listening. This is a really fascinanating subject and I know this title is very influential in the field of narratology.

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- Sparky McGhee

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-26-2013
  • Publisher: University Press Audiobooks