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The University of Nottingham

How to Read a Mind: an Introduction to Understanding Literary Characters

The University of Nottingham via FutureLearn

This course may be unavailable.


This free online course offers an introduction to the field known as cognitive poetics – applying cognitive science (the study of the mind and its processes) to how we read literature.

Understand cognitive poetics: what happens in our minds when we read

Taking our best current knowledge of how our minds and language work, we will ask some key questions about reading literature:

  • Why do we feel anything for fictional characters?
  • Why do we get angry, moved, irritated, annoyed or sentimental about imaginary people in imaginary worlds?
  • And why do the lives of fictional characters matter so much to readers?

The answers to these questions are surprising and empowering, and as we explore each, we will introduce you to some key concepts from psychology, linguistics and philosophy.

In advance of the course starting you can join the conversation using #FLread or follow lead educator @PeterJStockwell on Twitter.

There are no previous requirements needed to take part in this course.

Taught by

Peter Stockwell


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  • Eva Maria Albiol Gonzalez
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