Lecture with Lisa Zunshine on cultural and historical differences in reading literary minds

In a lecture titled "Mindreading: Cognitive Theory and Cultural Practice" Lisa Zunshine explores how the values of our communities affect our reading of minds in literature.

Lisa Zunshine

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As readers we are shaped by our individual experiences — but our reading patterns are also influenced by the values of the communities in which we are embedded. This applies to how we think about others' minds in literature. To quote Webb Keane, an anthropologist who writes on religion and ethics, while "theory of mind and intention-seeking are common to all humans," they are "elaborated in some communities [and] suppressed in others" (Ethical Life, 131). As a literary scholar working with theory of mind and fiction, Lisa Zunshine is interested in historical contexts that encourage or discourage certain types of mindreading associated with fictional characters, their authors, and their audiences. In her talk, Zunshine presents a series of case studies from a wide range of cultures to explore those contexts and the narratives that they make possible. 

Lisa Zunshine is Bush-Holbrook professor of English at the University of Kentucky and a former Guggenheim Fellow. Her research interests include cognitive literary and cultural studies and eighteenth-century British literature. Lisa Zunshine is the author or editor of twelve books, including Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (Ohio State UP), Strange Concepts and the Stories They Make Possible (Johns Hopkins UP), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (Oxford UP), Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies (Johns Hopkins UP), Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us About Popular Culture (Johns Hopkins UP), and, most recently, The Secret Life of Literature (MIT Press).

Published May 2, 2022 10:59 AM - Last modified May 2, 2022 11:13 AM