This article suggests that comparative literature scholars may benefit from the awareness that different communities around the world subscribe to different models of mind and that works of fiction can thus be fruitfully analyzed in relation to those local ideologies of mind. Taking as her starting point the “opacity of mind” doctrine, found in the South Pacific and Melanesia, the author compares cultural practices originating in communities in which people think but do not talk publicly about others’ internal states, to those originating in communities in which people both think and talk about them, indeed, in which public speculation about other people’s intentions is (mostly) rewarded. While the immediate analysis centers on a very specific and limited set of case studies from English, Chinese, and Russian novels and Bosavi performance genres, the author’s larger goal is to begin to articulate opportunities and challenges of using research in theory of mind for the comparative study of literature.
Who Is He to Speak of My Sorrow?
Lisa Zunshine is Bush-Holbrook Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, former Guggenheim fellow (2007), and author and editor of eleven books, including Strange Concepts and the Stories They Make Possible: Cognition, Culture, Narrative (2008), Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Popular Culture (2012), and The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (2015) She is currently completing a book-length comparative study of the construction of fictional minds in Chinese, Russian, and English literature.
Lisa Zunshine; Who Is He to Speak of My Sorrow?. Poetics Today 1 June 2020; 41 (2): 223–241. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-8172542
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