Neuro Humanities Studies

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Grazia Pulvirenti, Renata Gambino, The paradox of Romantic ekphrasis. Metacritic discourse, perception and imagination in art descripti


Ekphrasis is a text genre based on the intertwining of visual and verbal features, involving the processes of both reading, and priming a visual image or a related action. We argue in this study that...

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Marco Caracciolo,

Patterns of cognitive dissonance in readers’ engagement with characters


Source: Enthymema, 8
Year: 2013
Topics: Empathy; Cognition;
Disciplines: Literature;

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Leon Festinger’s account of cognitive dissonance, published in 1957, has become one of the most successful theories in the history of social psychology. I argue that Festinger’s frame-work—and the research it generated over the last sixty years—can shed light on key aspects of readers’ engagement with literary characters. Literature can invite the audience to vicariously ex-perience characters’ dissonance through an empathetic mechanism, but it can also induce disso-nant states in readers by encouraging them to take on attitudes and beliefs that are significantly different from their own. I suggest that there are two strategies—or patterns of reader-response—through which the audience can cope with the dissonance between their own worldview and the characters’: attitude change and imaginative resistance. In the first, readers adjust their own beliefs and values according to what they have experienced and learned in adopting characters’ perspectives. By contrast, in imaginative resistance readers’ worldview pre-vents them from establishing an empathetic bond with characters. I integrate these hypotheses into a model that builds on theoretical as well as empirical insights into reader-response.

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