Friday, April 27, 2007

Did Elizabeth Bennet Sleep With Mr. Darcy Before They Were Married?

I am reading Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine (Greg Feeley recommended it because he thought I would like it and I very much do.) It’s a book about how our mind takes the abbreviated information encoded on a page and reads into it the complexity we read in people’s behaviors. In one part, she talks about how we don’t believe that the characters in books are real, but some part of our brain behaves as if we do believe they are real.

She talks about how instructors work so hard to illuminate the intricacy of the artifice of a work of fiction and then the students get caught up in a debate about whether or not Elizabeth Bennet slept with Mr. Darcy before they got married.

It seems to me that our unease on this occasion stems from our intuitive realization that on some level our evolved cognitive architecture indeed does not fully distinguish between real and fictional people. Faced with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, our Theory of Mind jumps at the opportunity (so to speak) to speculate about their past, present and future states of mind, even as we realize that these “airy forms [and] phantoms of imagination”* do not deserve such treatment.

Why We Read Fiction, p.19

As a writer I am always astonished at how little it takes to evoke character. At how far we will go with a single strong detail. At how much agreement you can get from readers about a character’s motivation.

It’s quite an interesting book.


*Henry Fielding, Tom Jones.

10 Comments:

Blogger Beth Adele said...

"...but some part of our brain behaves as if we do believe they are real."

I sometimes wonder if this is partly why I can't watch horror films. I believe too strongly that these people are real, that this is really happening. And I just can't bear it. (There's also a congenital queasiness -- my sister can't watch horror films either, and she's not the dedicated reader I am.)

And come to think of it, where would fanfic be without this phenomenon?

I'll have to pick up Zunshine's book. Sounds right up my alley!

April 28, 2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Yeah, I think fanfic is exactly right in the center of this phenomena. I mean it's a whole genre of answers to the question 'Did Elizabeth Bennet Sleep With Mr. Darcy Before They Were Married?' Or more importantly, 'Did Kirk sleep with Spock?'

It's interesting what characters become the focus of fanfic and which ones don't. It's not about the writing. Really good writers write really good books but no one writes fanfic about them. (As far as I know, no one is writing fanfic about Genly Ai from Left Hand of Darkness and the Gethan who consoles him for the death of Estraven.

Although now that I've thought about it, I think I could write that one. Think I won't, though.

April 28, 2007 2:59 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

It's interesting what characters become the focus of fanfic and which ones don't. It's not about the writing.

Isn't the vast majority of fanfic about characters from television and movies? Very few books achieve that kind of audience; LotR and Harry Potter managed, but Left Hand of Darkness doesn't come close. So I think the question is, why is there so much fanfic about BtVS but so little about E.R., when the latter was a much more popular show?

April 29, 2007 3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've wondered why we can cry so easily at the death of a fictional character. Zunshine's book may explain it. I'll have to read it.

Marjorie

April 29, 2007 10:39 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

This sounds interesting; and coincidentally, I am rereading Pride and Prejudice. So far, nothing leads me to believe that anyone is sleeping with anyone, but I'll try to get my mind around it.
On the Left Hand of Darkness: I wish you would though.
And where is the fan fiction on Anna Karenina???

April 29, 2007 10:53 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

I once encountered fanfic, in English, based on "Romance of the Three Kingdoms," the classic Chinese historical novel by Luo Guangzhong.

Did Zhuge Liang sleep with Pan Tong? Apparently a lot of people want to know.

So far I haven't seen any fanfic based on =my= works. I think I would probably be pleased to know that such a thing existed: but I'm damn well sure I wouldn't want to read it.

April 29, 2007 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Shirley said...

According to the sequel to Pride and Prejuice (spelling) she didn't. But who knows.

May 07, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous jafanficlover said...

Interesting question. Perhaps the answer is more in what direction we wish the story would turn. In the original Pride and Prejudice, I do not think that was the intention, social norms being what they were. However, after reading much Pride and Prejudice fanfic, there have beem many very popular stories written that lead in the torrid love affair / compromising position direction. Perhaps it is just our modern societal norms that show up in a 200 year old classic in this particular case.

June 18, 2007 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog when doing a search for a P & P fanfic called Virtuous. But I think that a great deal of Austen fans consider this very issue, and come to very different conclusions. There are 20 + pages of Adult themed Fanfics regarding the pairing of Lizzy and Darcy, most set in Regency times, but many in Modern day settings as well. Those characters seem to transcend whatever time has passed or societal constraints that were imposed on them at the time. Some readers want more, thus the R/N17 stories that continue the what-if.

If you’re interested in doing further research on this topic, you might enjoy visiting Hyacinth Gardens. Once you register, you can find all of the stories in the Fiction Blooms section.

http://www.hyacinthgardens.com/garden/index.php

I enjoyed reading your post, and plan on reading this book myself now.

August 22, 2007 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 女人徵信, 外遇

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,

徵信, 徵信社,徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 離婚, 外遇,離婚,

徵信社,外遇, 離婚, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 外遇, 徵信,外遇, 抓姦, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信,徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社,徵信,徵信,

March 24, 2009 2:29 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home