Fictional Characters, Transparency, and Experiential Sharing

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How can providing less textual information about a fictional character make his or her mind more transparent and accessible to the reader? This is the question that emerges from an empirical study of reader response conducted by Kotovych et al. Taking my cue from this study, I discuss the role of implied information in readers’ interactions with characters in prose fiction. This is the textual strategy I call ‘character-centered implicature.’ I argue that the inferential work cued by implicature creates an intersubjective dynamic analogous to what philosophers Zahavi and Rochat discuss under the heading of ‘experiential sharing.’ Effectively, readers complement the textual evocation of mind by drawing on their own past experiences, which leads to a distinctive first-person plural perspective—a sharing of cognitive resources that is responsible for the perceived transparency of the character’s mind. While this experiential sharing may result in empathetic perspective-taking, not all instances of empathy for fictional characters involve sharing.
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-018-9593-x
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Simulating Minds: The Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience of Mindreading.Alvin Goldman - 2008 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 66 (1):94-97.
Studies in the Way of Words.Paul Grice - 1989 - Synthese 84 (1):153-161.
Narrative Explanation.J. David Velleman - 2003 - Philosophical Review 112 (1):1-25.

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