Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema

Smith, Murray (2022) Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion, and the Cinema. Oxford University Press, 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-887107-1. E-ISBN 978-0-19-191413-3. (doi:10.1093/oso/9780198871071.001.0001) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:104887)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL:


Characters—those imaginary 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 attitudes, and respond to them with anger, amusement, and affection—indeed, the whole palette of human emotions. Often enough, powerfully drawn characters transcend the stories to which they owe their genesis, migrating into our imaginations and deliberations about the actual world. And yet there has been remarkably little sustained and systematic reflection on these creatures that engage our minds and shape our feelings in equal measure. In Engaging Characters, Murray Smith sets out a comprehensive theory of character, exploring the role of characters in our experience of narrative and fiction. While focussing on film, Smith’s analysis also illuminates character in literature, opera, song, cartoons, new media, and social media. At the heart of Smith’s account is an explanation of the capacity of characters to move us. Teasing out the different 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 as a whole. Opening with a Foreword by David Bordwell, in this revised, twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Engaging Characters, Smith refines and extends the arguments of the first edition, with a substantial new Afterword reviewing the debates on emotion, empathy, and character inspired by the book.

Item Type: Book
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/oso/9780198871071.001.0001
Uncontrolled keywords: character, emotion, identification, cognition, imagination, fiction, narrative, aesthetics, art, film
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF41 Psychology and philosophy
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Murray Smith
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2024 12:36 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2024 11:01 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.