1st Edition

Jane Austen and Sciences of the Mind

Edited By Beth Lau Copyright 2018
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The essays in this volume interpret Jane Austen’s fiction through the lens of various sciences of the mind and brain, especially the cluster of disciplines implicated in the term cognitive science, including neuroscience, evolutionary biology, evolutionary and developmental psychology, and others. The field of cognitive literary studies has rapidly developed in the last few decades and achieved the status of an established (if still evolving) critical approach. One of the most popular authors to analyze from this perspective is Jane Austen. As numerous critics have noted, Austen was a keen observer of how the mind operates in its interactions with other minds, both when it functions successfully and when, as often happens, it goes awry, and her perceptions are often in synch with current neuroscientific and psychological research. Despite the widespread recognition of the special congruity between Austen’s novels and cognitive science, however, no book has been devoted to this subject. Jane Austen and Sciences of the Mind is the first monograph wholly comprised of readings of Austen’s oeuvre (juvenilia as well as all six completed novels) from cognitive and related psychological approaches. In addition, the volume operates under the assumption that cognitive and historicist approaches are compatible, and many essays situate Austen within the climate of ideas during her era as well as in relation to current research in the sciences and social sciences. Jane Austen and Sciences of the Mind offers a new lens for understanding and illuminating the concerns, techniques, and enduring appeal of Austen’s novels.


    Beth Lau

    1. Austen’s Juvenilia and Sciences of the Mind

    William Nelles

    2. Catherine’s Education in Mindreading in Northanger Abbey

    Beth Lau

    3. Jane Austen and the Perils of Mental Time Travel

    Alan Richardson

    4. The Map of Love in Mansfield Park

    Wendy S. Jones

    5. Austen Agitated: Feeling Emotions in Mixed Media

    Kate Singer

    6. Pride and Prejudice and Social Identity Theory

    Matt Lorenz

    7. ’My Fanny’: The Price of Play

    Bethany Wong

    8. Patterns of Attention and Memory in Jane Austen: Literary Neuroscience, History of Mind, and the Importance of Individual Difference

    Natalie M. Phillips et al

    9. Persuasion: Lessons in Socio-Cognitive Understanding

    Patrick Colm Hogan

    10. On Resilience and Jane Austen

    Kay Young


    Beth Lau is Professor of English Emerita at California State University, Long Beach, USA. She is the author of Keats’s Reading of the Romantic Poets (1991) and Keats’s Paradise Lost (1998), as well as numerous articles on various Romantic writers. She also edited Fellow Romantics: Male and Female British Writers, 1790-1835 (2009), the New Riverside edition of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (2002), and co-edited (with Diane Hoeveler) Approaches to Teaching Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1993).

    "Thanks to this new volume, cognitive literary studies has progressed one step further."

    - Inger S. B. Brodey, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    "Jane Austen and Sciences of the Mind richly reveals the power of cognitive literary studies, its need to embrace evolutionary perspectives, and the mutual benefits of integrating the arts, the humanities, and the sciences."

    - Brian Boyd, Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture.

    "Jane Austen specialists will, I'm sure, find in this book many insights into the novels and also much to interest them about the current state of cognitive science. Overall, the standard of the writing is high and the chapters by Nelles, Richardson, and Hogan are outstanding."

    - Alan Palmer, Review19.org.