Unwitting Interpreters: Some Cognitive Strategies Used by Readers of Fiction
This article surveys four cognitive strategies readers unwittingly use as they “concretize” the fictional worlds they encounter in fictional texts. The strategies are: the application of the “principle of minimal departure”; the use of “scripts”; the use of generic literary conventions; and the use of “theory of mind.” The article demonstrates that these strategies are “interpretive” in that they entail the use of various kinds of knowledge from outside the fictional text in order to enable the reader’s immersion in the fictional world. Most interestingly, the reader carries out these strategies entirely unawares. The latter part of this article focuses on the peculiarities of reader response that make such a phenomenology not only possible, but necessary.