“Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?” by Blakey Vermeule
Prof. Vermeule wonders how readers become involved in the lives of fictional characters, people they know do not exist. Vermeule examines the ways in which readers’ experiences of literature are affected by the emotional attachments they form to fictional characters and how those experiences then influence their social relationships in real life. . . . From the perspective of cognitive science, Vermeule finds that caring about literary characters is not all that different form caring about other people, especially strangers. The tools used by literary authors to sharpen and focus reader interest tap into evolved neural mechanisms that trigger a caring response.