The Simulated Self - Fiction Reading and Narrative Identity

Mathies, Susanne (2019). The Simulated Self - Fiction Reading and Narrative Identity. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

What does it mean to read, and to engage with, a work of fiction? In this thesis, I develop an account that explores the relation between fiction reading and the reader’s narrative identity. Starting with an investigation of Paul Ricoeur’s account of narrative identity and of Kendall Walton’s account of the nature of representations, I set out and argue for my own model of fiction reading. My account is based on two starting assumptions: first, that human beings are entangled in stories throughout their lives, and second, that emotions are complex and have a narrative structure. I argue that during the reading process, the fiction reader creates her own narratives which contain not only the story provided by the work of fiction, but also event sequences from her own experiential memories. I investigate the creation and the influence of self-conscious emotions which are generated during the reading process, especially when a reader identifies with a fictional character from within. I consider how and why these fiction-induced emotions can continue after the reading is finished, and how these emotions can motivate the reader to engage in self-reflection and to refigure her self-narrative. My account examines a new topic: the interactive influence of fiction reading and the fiction reader’s narrative identity.

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