The article challenges both cognitive-universalist and unnatural-exceptionalist approaches to fictional minds by analyzing how the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century novel merges the premodern poetics of exemplarity with emergent modern techniques of representing consciousness. It focuses on the “immature” forms of free indirect discourse in Madame de Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves (1678) while also briefly digressing to some relevant European novels in the eighteenth-century sentimental tradition. In these novels the negotiation between the socially shared and the imaginatively constructed is tangibly inscribed in the narrative discourse. The article argues, first, that the heterodiegetic narrator’s epistemic and psychological authority is narratively located not far from the gossip and social scheming (“naturally occurring storytelling”) within the story world. Second, rather than outrightly replacing the representation of exemplary minds and dispositions with an individualizing rendering of subjective consciousness, these novels transform the code of exemplum into an internalized strategy for the characters—and a case for self-reflection for the amateurish heterodiegetic narrators. The theoretical framework draws from Monika Fludernik’s (1993) pioneering cognitive-narratological theory of schematic speech and thought representation, suggesting that this linguistic theory should be modified to encompass a pertinent theme in the Western novelistic tradition.

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