Who is he to speak of my sorrow?

Lisa Zunshine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article suggests that comparative literature scholars may benefit from the awareness that different communities around the world subscribe to different models of mind and that works of fiction can thus be fruitfully analyzed in relation to those local ideologies of mind. Taking as her starting point the "opacity of mind"doctrine, found in the South Pacific and Melanesia, the author compares cultural practices originating in communities in which people think but do not talk publicly about others' internal states, to those originating in communities in which people both think and talk about them, indeed, in which public speculation about other people's intentions is (mostly) rewarded. While the immediate analysis centers on a very specific and limited set of case studies from English, Chinese, and Russian novels and Bosavi performance genres, the author's larger goal is to begin to articulate opportunities and challenges of using research in theory of mind for the comparative study of literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-241
Number of pages19
JournalPoetics Today
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics.


  • Comparative literature
  • Novel
  • Opacity doctrine
  • Performance genres
  • Theory of mind

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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