Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction explores how fiction works in the brains and imagination of both readers and writers. Drawing on an idea originally developed by a variety of historical literary figures including William Shakespeare, in this ground–breaking work Oatley richly illustrates how fiction is not simply a slice of life, pure entertainment, or an escape from everyday reality. While it does indeed incorporate many of these elements, at its core fiction represents a guided dream, a model that readers construct in collaboration with the writer. This waking dream not only enables us to see ourselves and others more clearly, but offers us revealing glimpses beneath the surface of the everyday world.
The book considers topics such as fiction′s ability to create vividly emotive experiences; issues of empathy and identification; creativity and externalizations of the mind utilized by writers of prose fiction; and the various effects of fiction on individual readers. Throughout the book, excerpts from fiction are also featured and discussed, including works by William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, Anton Chekhov, and James Baldwin. Informed by deep scholarly rigor, Such Stuff as Dreams is an illuminating and thought–provoking analysis of the transformative power of fiction to enter and engage the mind into revealing profound insights about ourselves and those around us.
1 Fiction as dream: Models, world–building, simulation.
2 The space–in–between: Childhood play as the entrance to fiction.
3 Creativity: Imagined worlds.
4 Character, action, incident: Mental models of people and their doings.
5 Emotions: Scenes in the imagination.
6 Writing fiction: Cues for the reader.
7 Effects of fiction: Is fiction good for you?
8 Talking about fiction: Interpretation in conversation.
Review copy sent on 29.05.14 to PsycCRITIQUES
Featured in The Scotsman – 25 July 2011
Featured in The Yorkshire Post – 23 August 2011
Featured in The Guardian – 22 July 2012
Featured in The Independent – 28 August 2012
Featured in The Globe & Mail – 9 September 2011
BBC Radio 4 interview – 7 July 2012
Featured in Times Literary Supplement – 30 March 2012
"Such Stuff as Dreams is a welcome and well–informed foray into a neglected research area. As someone who has thought very hard about the making of fiction as well as the creative engagement with it, Oatley is an excellent guide to the science of an art form whose value, in this brave new world of cognitive neuroscience, is undiminshed. His claim is that fiction, like other art forms, allows us to experience emotions in new contexts, and thus learn more about these emotions and ourselves. His achievement is to show us the many ways in which this is true." (The Psychologist, April 2012)
"Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower–division undergraduates through faculty; general readers." (Choice, 1 January 2012)
"Fiction, according to this cognitive psychologist, is a "dream" or mental "model" or "simulation", and now its effects can be probed with modern scientific techniques . . . Oatley explains with enthusiasm the results of his and others' experiments on readers." (The Guardian, 22 July 2011)
"Keith Oatley's book asks why we read, and what happens to our mind when we do. It is a winning combination of psychology, literary criticism and speculation." (The Scotsman, 30 July 2011)
Review in The Times and The Sunday Times e– paper – 12/07/11.
"Much of the discussion is compelling, and this book could well change the way you read . . . Still, his writing is entertaining and he's tapping into a rich vein, and I hope he will explore the subject further." (New Scientist, 23 July 2011)?