A cognitive outlook on the reading experience as seen by the embodied simulation and the theory of mind: a theoretical framework and an example of application to Mrs. Dalloway.

Sara Boezio

Abstract


This paper investigates the experience of a reader reading  literary narrative prose. In particular, we analyse and compare two notions from the domain of cognitive narratology, and in doing so, draw on recent contributions in neuroscience. The first notion is ‘embodied simulation’, conceived by the neurophysiologist Vittorio Gallese, a member of the team that discovered the mirror neurons; the second is 'theory of mind', that was originally formulated in philosophy e psychology, and whose potential for literary studies has been brought to light, albeit with some limitations, by narratologists, among which Lisa Zunshine and Alan Palmer. We begin by illustrating the theoretical bases of these two approaches. We then consider their main differences, and finally, we test them out by analysing several passages from Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. It appears that the mechanism of embodied simulation that supports embodied narratology is a fruitful heuristic apparatus that is fundamental in order to complement the theory of mind. The latter remains helpful, but given that it does not take account of the neurobiological inner workings of the reading process, it fails to account for primary modes of human interaction with other real persons, and similarly with the minds of fictional characters, that have been discovered with the help of recent neurological studies.


Keywords


Cognitive narratology; Neuro-rhetorics; Mirror neurons; Zunshine; Immersion

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/1161

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17046

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