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

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.478

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

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Volume 2014, Issue 202


Two child narrators: Defamiliarization, empathy, and reader-response in Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident and Emma Donoghue's Room

Marco Caracciolo
Published Online: 2014-10-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2014-0050


Drawing on a corpus of online reviews, my article carries out a qualitative study of readers' responses to the child narrators of two contemporary novels, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) and Emma Donoghue's Room (2010). What these narrators have in common is that they are both are affected by developmental disorders: Christopher, the protagonist of The Curious Incident, is on the autistic spectrum, whereas Jack – the five-year-old narrator of Room – was born and brought up in captivity. Through my analysis of the reviews I explore the interplay of defamiliarization and empathy in readers' engagement with these “strange” narrators; I also show how empathetic perspective-taking can work in tandem with sympathy (feeling for a character from an observer position).

Keywords: narrative; empathy; identification; defamiliarization; autism; humor

About the article

Marco Caracciolo

Marco Caracciolo (b. 1984) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Groningen 〈m.caracciolo@rug.nl〉. His research interests include cognitive approaches to literature, narrative theory, and literary aesthetics. His publications include “Fictional consciousnesses: A reader's manual” (2012); “Narrative, meaning, interpretation: An enactivist approach” (2012); Letteratura e scienze cognitive (with Marco Bernini, 2013); and The experientiality of narrative: An enactivist approach (2014).

Published Online: 2014-10-01

Published in Print: 2014-10-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2014, Issue 202, Pages 183–205, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2014-0050.

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