03 April 2010

Why do you read fiction?

Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know
Now English professors and graduate students… say they’re convinced science not only offers unexpected insights into individual texts, but that it may help to answer fundamental questions about literature’s very existence: Why do we read fiction? Why do we care so passionately about nonexistent characters? What underlying mental processes are activated when we read?…

Zealous enthusiasm for the politically charged and frequently arcane theories that energized departments in the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s — Marxism, structuralism, psychoanalysis — has faded. Since then a new generation of scholars have been casting about for The Next Big Thing.

The brain may be it. Getting to the root of people’s fascination with fiction and fantasy, Mr. Jonathan Gottschall, who has written extensively about using evolutionary theory to explain fiction, said, is like “mapping wonderland.”

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