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Characters - those fictional agents populating the fictional worlds we spend so much time absorbed in - are ubiquitous in our lives. We track their fortunes, judge their actions, and respond to them with anger, amusement, and affection - indeed the whole palette of human emotions. Powerfully drawn characters transcend their stories, entering into our imaginations and deliberations about the actual world, acting as analogies and points of reference. And yet there has been remarkably little sustained and systematic reflection on these creatures that absorb so much of our attention and emotional lives.
In Engaging Characters
, Murray Smith sets out a comprehensive analysis of character, exploring the role of characters in our experience of narrative and fiction. Smith's analysis focuses on film, and also illuminates character in literature, opera, song, cartoons, new and social media. At the heart of this account is an explanation of the capacity of characters to move us. Teasing out the various dimensions of character, Smith explores the means by which films draw us close to characters, or hold us at a distance from them, and how our beliefs and attitudes are formed and sometimes reformed by these encounters. Integrating these arguments with research on emotion in philosophy, psychology, evolutionary theory, and anthropology, Engaging Characters
advances an account of the nature of fictional characters and their functions in fiction, imagination, and human experience.
In this revised, twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Engaging Characters
, Smith refines and extends the arguments of the first edition, with a substantial new introduction reviewing the debates on emotion, empathy, and film spectatorship that the book has inspired.