Zunshine’s Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies seems to assume a mind-reading ability in all men, and many of the essays in her book discuss fictional readers/narrative audiences in terms of their ability to mind-read. However, I believe that an important and unexplored topic is that men vary greatly in their awareness of others’ minds, knowledge, and thought processes. I would argue that considering Theory of Mind as related to fictional characters should not be broadly applied, as there is importance in understanding the reader in addition to the work and the characters in that work. Yet, most of the essays discussed the narrative rather than the audience. A work of art or fiction is as dependant on its audience as it is its creator and its self. While Palmer, in Chapter 8, mentions that some people have “mindblindness,” he speaks of Autism and Asperger’s syndrome but not of those without a diagnosed condition that inhibits their ability to mind-read. This analysis would be interesting, and I believe that it would have served the book well.
Having said all of this, I assume, without having researched it, that there are numerous studies on the varying degrees that man participates in mind-reading. However, I wonder if these are mostly applied to real life and mind-reading with regard to real people and real situations. Just as Zunshine applies mind-reading by audiences to fictional characters, it would be interesting to observe the differences among audience members and how they apply their mind-reading abilities to fictional characters versus real people. What are the differences? Why are they different? Is this why some people can become quickly ingrained in a novel while others have trouble reading past page 2? Is it because some people can be “aware” of the characters outside of the written words while others cannot? In Chapter 8, Palmer suggests that as readers we must be cognitivists, or we wouldn’t be able to read. I would have enjoyed reading an exploration of this concept and how readers differ so greatly in the enjoyment and enlightenment they get from a work. Rather than focusing on the work, I would like to see more focus on the consumer of the work.