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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

6 Issues per year

CiteScore 2016: 0.32

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.240
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.819

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2007, Issue 165


Universal minds

Alan Palmer
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.040


The key to fictionality is the construction of fictional minds. A fictional narrative is, in essence, the presentation of the mental functioning of the characters who inhabit the storyworld created by that narrative. Readers enter a storyworld primarily by using their knowledge of how to interpret other people's thought processes in the real world in order to try to follow the workings of characters' minds. Otherwise, readers will lose the plot. In this essay, I will suggest that there are twelve features relating to fictional minds that recur in all or nearly all novels. This argument will be put into three contexts: the cognitive turn in literature studies, discussions regarding the concept of narrative universals, and the longstanding debate on how the term narrative should be properly defined. I will also argue that my generalizations regarding the twelve features are not invalidated by a few counterexamples, and that some, particularly postmodern, novels gain their power and impact precisely from their attempts to undermine the default assumptions contained in these features.

About the article

Alan Palmer

His research interests include narratology, cognitive poetics and cognitive approaches to literature, cognitive sciences and the study of consciousness, and philosophy and literature. His recent publications include Fictional Minds (2004); ‘Intermental thought in the novel: The Middlemarch mind’ (2005); ‘Attribution theory’ (2007); and ‘Storyworlds and groups’ (2007).

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-06-19

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2007, Issue 165, Pages 205–225, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.040.

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