Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


    This paper puts literary theory in conversation with cognitive science and considers what we might learn about actual minds by studying fictional ones.

    ENGL470 puts literary theory in conversation with cognitive science, and considers what we might learn about actual minds by studying fictional ones. The storyworlds we will inhabit range across narrative media, including texts in print (novels and short fiction) and in digital environments (digital fiction and video games).

    We will consider the unique power of novels and textual discourse to tell of the cognitive functioning of others. We will consider the way in which the print medium exploits a diverse range of techniques used to portray perspective, perception, and the emotional life of characters.

    Furthermore, we will consider how the participatory nature of digital fictions and the agency required in gameworlds requires a recalibration of more conventional notions of immersion in fictional worlds and identification with the characters that inhabit them.

    About this paper

    Paper title Storyworlds and Cognition
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,240.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    72 300-level ENGL points
    May not be credited with ENGL467 taken in 2013, 2018, 2020

    Teaching staff

    Associate Professor David Ciccoricco

    Teaching Arrangements

    There is one 2-hour seminar per week.


    *Titles subject to change

    Print narratives:

    • James Joyce, "Penelope" (excerpt)
    • Lidia Yuknavitch, "Male Lead"
    • Virginia Woolf, "Mrs Dalloway" [required for purchase]
    • Lance Olsen, "Nietzsche's Kisses" [required for purchase]
    • Nicholson Baker, "Mezzanine" [required for purchase]

    Digital narratives (available online): To be confirmed

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will:

    • Gain a familiarity with the working concepts and vocabulary of the field of "cognitive literary studies" and apply that theoretical and conceptual knowledge to specific narrative texts in written assessment
    • Identify moments of convergence and divergence between what structures the experience of narratives in print (such as novels) on the one hand and those of digital fictions and gameworlds on the other
    • Recognise the ways in which narratives across media both represent cognition (of fictional characters) and tell us something about the minds of actual readers, viewers, and players
    • Acquire the technical and critical skills necessary to utilise digital platforms as a working repository of scholarly ideas and a participatory text open to peer critique
    • Identify main currents of scholarship and claims in a variety of secondary sources in this emerging field and triangulate these claims in relation to other sources and readings
    • Understand higher concepts that underpin the relationship between literature and media and demonstrate that understanding in written assessment
    • Create, prepare and deliver an academic lecture on a chosen topic from the paper


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system
    Back to top