University of Oulu

Kokkola, L., & Rydström, U. (2022). Creativity and cognition in fiction by teenage learners of English. Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics, 31(1), 99–118.

Creativity and cognition in fiction by teenage learners of English

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Author: Kokkola, Lydia1; Rydström, Ulla2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Finland
2Luleå High School, Sweden
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-24


Learning a foreign language provides an entry point into the lives of cultural ‘others’, as does the reading of realistic fiction. Responding to the challenges of both tasks requires concerted cognitive effort, but also creativity. First, individuals need to override the automatic tendency to prioritise their own point of view and then, at least temporarily, imagine themselves into another’s position. When reading fiction, focalisation determines whose views the readers can access, but point of view is implicit in all language. L2 learners need to recognise and imitate the world view implicit in the target language. In this article, we present both skills — empathy and mimicry — as acts of creative cognition that develop from responding to literature. This article examines works of fiction written by 15–16-year-old Swedish learners of English in response to a short story by Salman Rushdie. The story contains culturally specific information, and the ending encourages readers to recognise their own assumptions alongside the focalising character. The study draws on cognitive narratology to examine the Swedish learners’ fiction in terms of empathy and mimicry. The aims of the analyses are to determine how the short story and task design promote creative cognition, and to identify where the learners reveal a lack of understanding or an over-reliance on stereotypes.

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Series: Language and literature
ISSN: 0963-9470
ISSN-E: 1461-7293
ISSN-L: 0963-9470
Volume: 31
Issue: 1
Pages: 99 - 118
DOI: 10.1177/09639470211072171
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: This work was supported by C21st Literacies for C21st Sweden, SkolForsknings Institutet.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. The final authenticated version is available online at