How to read a mind

A new online course from the University of Nottingham looks at how we read and model fictional minds

The University is part of FutureLearn — an online platform offering free course content from the UK’s top universities, which had its official launch last year.

The course is being led by the School of English and offers an introduction to what is known as cognitive poetics. Taking our best current knowledge of how our minds and language work, this course takes you through key questions of literature and reading.

‘How to read… a mind’ is the first in a series of ‘how to read…’ courses which will be presented by applied linguists, discourse analysts and literary critics at the University.

Professor Peter Stockwell, from the School of English, is leading the course. He said: “In everyday life we don’t have telepathy, we don’t have a voice in our heads telling us what other people think and feel and see. In literary fiction though, it is as though we have this ability, we know what literary characters think and feel and believe, and sometimes this relationship becomes so rich, that it’s almost real.”

“Fictional minds, real minds and your mind are not so different and we deal with all people in more or less the same way. That includes ourselves and fictional minds and it also includes animal minds and the way we deal with inanimate objects. Through this course, we are going to discover how all this works. We’ll use our current best knowledge of language and mind to explain how we make characters real, and how we are immersed and absorbed in to literary worlds.

“We’ll discover that a little knowledge about cognition and linguistics can take us a long way, and we’ll understand a little more fully, how to read fiction, how to read people (including ourselves) and really, how to read a mind.”

This course is free to undertake and starts on 17 March for a duration of two weeks and will require three hours of participation a week. Registration is now open.

In advance of the course starting you can join the conversation using #FLread or contact @PeterJStockwell on Twitter. 

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