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Fiction and Other Minds

The “Fiction and Other Minds” seminar series has been running since 2013, hosting a range of speakers working at the interface between literary studies, cognitive science and phenomenology. The seminar explores the productive field that opens when features investigated by the cognitive sciences are tested and expanded across different cultural contexts In particular, we explore the extent to which literary texts often challenge and differentiate theoretical insights—especially through their attention to the culturally situated aspects of cognition—and how cognitively informed approaches to literature can deepen our understanding of the embodied and affective processes that underpin meaning-making, including literary reading. 


Convenors: Ben Morgan and Naomi Rokotnitz

Seminar Room 11, St Anne's College

TORCH/Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Programme in conjunction with the John Fell Fund project “I & We: Literary Texts and the Constitution of Shared Identities at Four Moments of Historical Transition”


What Can Literature Teach us about Personal and Collective Identification?


Part I Wednesday 12th February (4th Week): Dan Zahavi and Naomi Rokotnitz

Part II Wednesday 13th May (3rd Week): Felix Budelmann and Ben Morgan


Dan Zahavi (Copenhagen and St Hilda's): “I, You and We”

This talk will present some of the challenges facing a plausible account of we-intentionality. I will discuss and criticize a couple of different recent approaches that either claim that the 'we' precedes individual subjectivity or that ‘we-ness’ involves a kind of phenomenal fusion, and instead defend the view that reciprocal second-person engagement plays a crucial role in the emergence of a 'we.'


Naomi Rokotnitz (Worcester): How 'We' contribute to 'I': Part I - Personification, Make-believe Play and Existential Choice 

This paper tests the hypothesis that forms of personification can intervene in the productive interchange between a subject and his or her social environment, contributing in significant ways to formations of the self and that self's relations to others, as well as suggesting criteria by which to define authentic being-in-the-world and, in particular, "relational authenticity" (Gallagher, Morgan, Rokotnitz 2018). Analysis of two short literary episodes will synthesize an approach to authentic selfhood that is rooted in the existential tradition in philosophy, extends to account for a 4E approach to subjectivity (as embodied, embedded, enactive and extended), and demonstrates how this may be made explicit and available for interrogation in fictional texts. 

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