The Interpretation of Fictional Characters in Literary Texts: History of Literary Criticism, Philosophy and Formal Ontologies

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2025 | Viewed by 610

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Department of European, American and Intercultural Studies, Sapienza University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy
Interests: literary criticism; textual criticism; literature studies; rhetorical analysis; medieval literature

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Guest Editor
Laboratory for Applied Ontology, National Research Council of Italy, 38123 Trento, Italy
Interests: applied ontology; formal ontology; information systems

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Guest Editor
Department of Humanities, University of Macerata, 62100 Macerata, Italy
Interests: ontology; metaphysics; philosophy of mind

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Humanities aims to foster reflection on fictional characters in literary texts and the interpretive practices associated with them. It embraces a multidisciplinary perspective encompassing the history of literary criticism, hermeneutics, philosophy, and models of formal ontology that support the design of information systems for research and application in the Digital Humanities.

Our goal is to shed light on the following topics:

  1. The different theories, methodologies, and critical tools adopted by literary critics and scholars when it comes to interpreting fictional characters, and, namely, their specific vocabularies, argumentative strategies, and their relationship with the previous analysis. 

Proposals can include—but are not limited to—discussions, both theoretical and/or based on specific case-studies, on the following topics:

  1. How does the methodology adopted by a specific reader affect their response and interpretation of fictional characters? Conversely, in literary theory and/or in the history of literary criticism, what implications does a specific approach to fictional characters bear for the overall evaluation of the literary work they appear in?
  2. How do scholars defend their interpretation of fictional characters, and how do they assume—or not assume—the situated nature of their knowledge?
  3. How do rewritings of fictional characters interact with literary criticism about those same characters?

Historical profiles about the critical and/or creative reception of specific fictional characters are also welcome, especially if devoted to female characters and/or to Medieval characters.

  1. Philosophical discussions concerning the nature of fictional characters, encompassing novel perspectives on their existence and identity conditions. These include, but are not limited to, insights into their correlation with authors' intentions, readers' responses, and other associated dimensions.

Proposals can involve—but need not be limited to—the following topics:

  1. Within existing accounts of the identity criteria of fictional entities, how are such criteria (implicitly or explicitly) connected with acts and claims of literary interpretation? What are the problems—if any—that affect these connections?
  2. To what extent are literary interpretation acts and claims able to determine (or at least influence) the identity and existence of fictional entities?
  3. How does the debate between intentionalist and non-intentionalist views of literary interpretation bear upon the identity and existence criteria of fictional entities?
  4. How do competing theories of ontological dependence, grounding, and related notions fare with the putative influence of literary interpretation upon the identity and existence of fictional entities?
  5. Is it possible to provide replies to the aforementioned problems (or to similar problems) by embracing an anti-realist view of fictional entities?
  1. Conceptual  and formal models, possibly expressed in formal languages used in applied ontology (such as first-order logic, description logics, and Semantic Web languages) that are designed to provide scholars with conceptual and digital tools for documenting, analyzing, and comparing multiple sets of interpretive data. 

Proposals can include (but are not limited to):

  1. Conceptual analyses of fictional characters and other fictional elements supporting the specification of ontologies for DH applications;
  2. Research challenges in the use of ontologies in literature and in (the history of) literary criticism;
  3. Ontologies for the modeling of fictional entities, including contributions addressing topics related to the identity of fictional entities across multiple literary texts;
  4. Ontologies for the modeling of scholarly interpretations, including, among others, contributions addressing topics related to logical reasoning, the presence of multiple and possibly conflicting interpretations about the same entities, and the interface between ontologies and argumentation theories;
  5. Ontologies for the modeling of scholarly interpretations of fictional characters.

Due to its interdisciplinary character, this Special Issue welcomes out-of-the-box contributions that promote dialogue and interaction among literary studies, philosophy, and digital humanities.

We will be accepting proposals until October 31, 2024; before submitting their proposal through the relevant platform, authors are kindly invited to email their abstract to the Guest Editors for a preliminary approval. The deadline for the submission of the completed manuscripts is February 28, 2025.

Dr. Gaia Tomazzoli
Dr. Emilio Maria Sanfilippo
Dr. Michele Paolini Paoletti
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • literary characters
  • literary fiction
  • literary criticism
  • fictional objects
  • formal ontologies
  • digital humanities
  • information systems
  • medieval Italian literature
  • metaphysics

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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