Fiction and Other Minds: Mindreading — Cognitive Theory and Cultural Practice
To quote Webb Keane, an anthropologist who writes on religion and ethics, while “theory of mind and intention-seeking are common to all humans,” they are “elaborated in some communities [and] suppressed in others” (Ethical Life, 131). As a literary scholar working with theory of mind and fiction, Prof Lisa Zunshine is interested in historical contexts that encourage or discourage certain types of mindreading associated with fictional characters, their authors, and their audiences. In this talk, she presents a series of case studies from a wide range of cultures to speculate how implied values of different communities may foster or suppress particular patterns of mindreading in literature.

Lisa Zunshine is Bush-Holbrook Professor of English at the University of Kentucky, a former Guggenheim fellow, and the author or editor of twelve books, including Bastards and Foundlings: Illegitimacy in Eighteenth-Century England (Ohio State UP, 2006), Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel (Ohio State UP, 2006), Strange Concepts and the Stories They Make Possible: Cognition, Culture, Narrative (Johns Hopkins UP, 2008), Getting Inside Your Head: What Cognitive Science Can Tell Us about Popular Culture (Johns Hopkins UP, 2012), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (edited volume; 2015), and The Secret Life of Literature (MIT, 2022).

The seminar is convened by Professor Ben Morgan ( and Dr Naomi Rokotnitz (

As always, the talk will be followed by drinks for all attendees.
Date: 3 May 2023, 17:15 (Wednesday, 2nd week, Trinity 2023)
Venue: St Anne's College, Woodstock Road OX2 6HS
Venue Details: Seminar Room 8, St Anne's College
Speaker: Professor Lisa Zunshine (University of Kentucky)
Booking required?: Not required
Booking url:
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Katy Terry