Intersubjectivity: Definition & Examples

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Baker

Kelly has taught college composition and creative writing and is graduating with a master's degree in English.

In this lesson, we will learn about intersubjectivity. You will learn what intersubjectivity means, how it is used in literature, and see two examples of intersubjectivity in novels.

Definition of Intersubjectivity

A good way to think about intersubjectivity is to imagine how you relate to your family and friends. Maybe your mother enjoyed playing tennis. She took you with her when she practiced, and you always had a good time. Growing up, you decided to join the school tennis team. If your mother had not played tennis with you growing up, you may not have grown to like the sport. Your experience with tennis can be called intersubjective because it was influenced by another person (your mother). In order to better understand intersubjectivity, we first need to define a subject and an object. A subject is the person experiencing an action or event. An object is what is being experienced.

When we say something is objective, we mean that it is factually true. When we say that something is subjective, we mean that it is based on an opinion, or a biased viewpoint, not on hard facts. In literature, subjectivity means that the story is told from a biased viewpoint, whether it is told by a character or an unnamed narrator. Everyone in the world has their own subjective viewpoint. Intersubjectivity means that we all influence and are all influenced by others to some degree. The principle of intersubjectivity can be applied to almost any decision we make, big or small. We always have to consider how our actions will affect others. We ourselves are constantly affected by the actions and words of the people around us.

Intersubjectivity in Literature

In literature, intersubjectivity means that several subjective viewpoints are being put together in a story. Each character has his or her own unique opinion of the events that are happening. These subjective characters may meet and influence each other's viewpoints. A person may also be affected by larger cultural norms, in addition to other individuals.

Intersubjectivity can also be a tool for analyzing literature. We know that in a story, the protagonist, or the main character, must overcome some obstacle in order to achieve a goal. It is easy to view a story only as the protagonist's journey toward that goal. However, if we analyze a novel or short story using intersubjectivity, we would look at how other characters influenced the protagonist on his or her journey. We would also look at how the protagonist influenced other characters, and how his or her actions fit into the social norms of the time.

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