• Mindreading Our Way to Meaning: Relevance Theory and Mental Gymnastics in Narrative Reading

    Jacob Stephen Bullock (see profile)
    Relevance, Interpersonal communication, Narration (Rhetoric), Criticism and interpretation, Pragmatics, Autism, Psychology and literature, Cognitive psychology
    Item Type:
    Relevance Theory, Narrative criticism, Cognitive literary studies
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    Beliefs, passions, desires, and intentions are the thoughts that drive narrative. These thoughts lie in the mind of the author as well as the characters, and a reader must draw these thoughts out in order to find the meaning they believe an author intended to communicate through the text. This innate mindreading task is deeply complex and requires the reader to form opinions not only about the author’s beliefs regarding the characters’ thoughts, but also about the characters’ beliefs regarding each other’s thoughts and motivations. These two levels of understanding demonstrate that narrative texts are layered acts of communication. A text contains at least two layers of thought and intentionality: one author/reader-oriented and the other character-oriented. In this paper I argue that, because narratives contain multiple layers of intentionality, readers must generate multiple order metarepresentations to interpret narrative texts along the lines the author desired the narrative to be understood. I examine these layers of intentionality via a relevance-theoretical viewpoint of narrative texts as layered utterances. I argue that to understand narrative texts, readers must actively mindread by generating first through third order metarepresentations. I give examples of the kind of information these metarepresentations allow a reader to recover. I conclude the paper with a brief validation of my argument by examining the difficulties in narrative comprehension experienced by those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) resulting from a diminished ability to generate metarepresentations they often experience.
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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