Readers often relate literature to life, and this may give literature the capacity to influence individuals and communities. The connection between literature and life is usually supposed to come about because literary texts convey explicit or implicit statements, or because readers involve themselves in the events described in the text through identification, empathy, or simulation. A third mechanism is the centre of attention in this paper: readers draw analogies from the literary text to reality. Elaborating on my earlier analyses of analogical thinking and similar processes, I suggest that actual reactions to literature must sometimes be understood as resulting from mental operations, in which the reader sets up an analogy between a textual element and something in the world outside. Such reader-made analogies between literary texts and the world are crucial in understanding how literature can influence people. However, analogical thinking provides merely a general model for understanding how readers of literature form ideas about the real world. One often has to analyze the processes in finer detail, and thus develop more specialized descriptions and concepts.
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