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Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction

ISBN: 978-0-470-97457-5
290 pages
July 2011
Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction (0470974575) cover image
Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction explores how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers.
  • Demonstrates how reading fiction can contribute to a greater understanding of, and the ability to change, ourselves
  • Informed by the latest psychological research which focuses on, for example, how identification with fictional characters occurs, and how literature can improve social abilities
  • Explores traditional aspects of fiction, including character, plot, setting, and theme, as well as a number of classic techniques, such as metaphor, metonymy, defamiliarization, and cues
  • Includes extensive end-notes, which ground the work in psychological studies
  • Features excerpts from fiction which are discussed throughout the text, including works by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Anton Chekhov, James Baldwin, and others
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Preface.

Acknowledgments.

1 Fiction as dream: Models, world-building, simulation.

2 The space-in-between: Childhood play as the entrance to fiction.

3 Creativity: Imagined worlds.

4 Character, action, incident: Mental models of people and their doings.

5 Emotions: Scenes in the imagination.

6 Writing fiction: Cues for the reader.

7 Effects of fiction: Is fiction good for you?

8 Talking about fiction: Interpretation in conversation.

Endnotes.

Bibliography.

Name Index.

Subject Index.

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Keith Oatley is Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Toronto. He is the co-author of Understanding Emotions (Blackwell, 2006), the most widely used textbook on this subject, and has written three works of fiction, including The Case of Emily V. (1993), which won the 1994 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel.
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“Such Stuff as Dreamsis a remarkable book in several ways. It stands out by the breadth of the topics covered, extending beyond the reader to also include the writing and the communication about fiction, and by the diversity and richness of the many different concepts and studies brought to bear upon the topic.”  (JLTonline, 1 July 2014

Review copy sent on 29.05.14 to PsycCRITIQUES

Featured in The Scotsman - 25 July 2011

Featured in The Yorkshire Post - 23 August 2011

Featured in The Guardian - 22 July 2012

Featured in The Independent - 28 August 2012

Featured in The Globe & Mail - 9 September 2011

BBC Radio 4 interview - 7 July 2012

Featured in Times Literary Supplement - 30 March 2012

"Such Stuff as Dreams is a welcome and well-informed foray into a neglected research area. As someone who has thought very hard about the making of fiction as well as the creative engagement with it, Oatley is an excellent guide to the science of an art form whose value, in this brave new world of cognitive neuroscience, is undiminshed. His claim is that fiction, like other art forms, allows us to experience emotions in new contexts, and thus learn more about these emotions and ourselves. His achievement is to show us the many ways in which this is true." (The Psychologist, April 2012)

"Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers." (Choice, 1 January 2012)

"Fiction, according to this cognitive psychologist, is a "dream" or mental "model" or "simulation", and now its effects can be probed with modern scientific techniques . . . Oatley explains with enthusiasm the results of his and others' experiments on readers." (The Guardian, 22 July 2011)

"Keith Oatley's book asks why we read, and what happens to our mind when we do. It is a winning combination of psychology, literary criticism and speculation." (The Scotsman, 30 July 2011)

Review in The Times and The Sunday Times e- paper - 12/07/11.

"Much of the discussion is compelling, and this book could well change the way you read . . . Still, his writing is entertaining and he's tapping into a rich vein, and I hope he will explore the subject further." (New Scientist, 23 July 2011)?

This is the book on emotion and literature that we have been waiting for.  Oatley’s perceptive review of the field and the numerous insights of his own that he develops make this book the richest and most intriguing to appear in a decade.  It will be essential for anyone interested in the processes of literary reading. Written in deceptively simple and elegant prose, accommodating all the complexities within the field and beyond it, Oatley transports his reader from literature to psychology, from Shakespeare to children’s theory of mind, from Eisenstein’s film practices to the theories of ancient Indian poetics.  All these topics and more contribute to illuminating the transformative power of literary fiction for the reader.
David S. Miall, Professor of English & Film Studies and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Alberta, Canada

Like the best fiction, this insightful book illuminates fundamental truths about our minds, relationships, emotions, creativity, and how these come together to form stories with lasting impact. It is an engaging, wide-ranging, and scientifically-grounded journey from fiction’s roots in childhood through its continuing role in our lives. Professor Oatley is the perfect guide through the psychology of fiction: he combines the deep expertise of a scholar and the passion of a lifelong reader with a writer’s touch.  This book is a delightful and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in literature, how it works, and why it is so important to the human experience.
Melanie C. Green, Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina, USA

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July 07, 2011
Author of 'Such Stuff as Dreams' on Radio 4 Today Programme

Listen to an interview with Keith Oatley, author of ‘Such Stuff as Dreams - The Psychology of Fiction’, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9532000/9532475.stm.  Professor Oatley addresses the question of whether reading fiction is good for you and affects your emotional intelligence.

'Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction' explores how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers.

  • Demonstrates how reading fiction can contribute to a greater understanding of, and the ability to change, ourselves
  • Informed by the latest psychological research which focuses on, for example, how identification with fictional characters occurs, and how literature can improve social abilities
  • Explores traditional aspects of fiction, including character, plot, setting, and theme, as well as a number of classic techniques, such as metaphor, metonymy, defamiliarization, and cues
  • Includes extensive end-notes, which ground the work in psychological studies
  • Features excerpts from fiction which are discussed throughout the text, including works by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Anton Chekhov, James Baldwin, and others.

 

 

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