A cognitive analysis of characters in swedish and anglophone children's fantasy Literature

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


In Justice in Young Adult Speculative Fiction, Marek C. Oziewicz argues, 'it is possible to study scripts through the lens of the author's cognition, through the reader's cognition, or as a textual matter with an implied author and reader' (9-10). Here we propose a fourth method for studying scripts in children's literature: as a textual matter. Unlike previous research in the field, we argue that neither the implied author nor the implied or real reader's cognition is necessary for a cognitive analysis to offer insights about a literary text. A cognitive analysis of characters can demonstrate how each character's cognitive embodiment of their intersectional subject position contributes to the progression of a text's plot and themes. By analysing the mimetic, synthetic and thematic dimensions of character (Phelan), we maintain an ontological distinction between humans and characters - a prerequisite for applying cognitive theories to characters. In order to demonstrate the broad applicability of our approach, we analyse the cognitive scripts of the protagonists in two portal-quest fantasies from two different countries. Taliah Pollack's Saga Swärd: Omskakare och världsresenär [Saga Sword: world shaker and traveller] was published in Sweden in 2012; Tahereh Mafi's Furthermore dates from 2016 and was published in the US.


  • Malin Alkestrand
  • Christopher Owen
External organisations
  • Linnaeus University
  • Anglia Ruskin University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Specific Literatures


  • Character, Children's literature, Cognitive theory, Fantasy, Intersectionality
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-79
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul 1
Publication categoryResearch