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DLL Seminar: Professor Maria Nikolajeva

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UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way

Room 746

London

WC1H 0AL

United Kingdom

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Maria Nikolajeva is a Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and the director of the Cambridge Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature. She is the author and editor of numerous books, including Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers (2010), Reading for Learning: Cognitive Approaches to Children's Literature (2014), and she co-edited The Edinburgh Companion to Children's Literature (2017). In 2005 she received the International Grimm Award for a lifetime achievement in children's literature research.


Abstract

On October 3, 2013, Science published an article with the provocative title “Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind”. While the results of the study may have come as a surprise for brain researchers and cognitive psychologists, literary scholars received experiment-based confirmation of something they have known for centuries: reading fiction is good for our social and emotional development. Since then, numerous empirical studies have confirmed the findings. However, what has so far been largely neglected is the implications of cognitive criticism for the study of literature targeting a young audience, whose theory of mind, empathic skills and ethical values are not yet fully developed. The imbalance of the cognitive, affective and social competences of the sender and the receiver makes children's literature a unique study object. In addition, the representation of a young protagonist's consciousness and emerging empathy poses specific demands on the writer as well as the reader. In this talk I will consider how cognitive literary criticism can explain how reading fiction is particularly beneficial for young readers' understanding of the material and social world, of themselves and of other people. I will explore how fiction, through its specific construction of time, space and narrative, stimulates young readers' perception, attention, imagination, memory, empathy and other aspects of cognitive activity. Drawing on the work by Lisa Zunshine (2006) and Blackey Vermeule (2010), the predominantly theoretical argument will be illustrated by a number of classic and contemporary children's novels.

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UCL Institute of Education

20 Bedford Way

Room 746

London

WC1H 0AL

United Kingdom

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