The Work of Fiction: Cognition, Culture, and Complexity, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Work of Fiction

Cognition, Culture, and Complexity, 1st Edition

By Ellen Spolsky

Edited by Alan Richardson


208 pages

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Hardback: 9780754638490
pub: 2004-06-22
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The essays gathered here demonstrate and justify the excitement and promise of cognitive historicism, providing a lively introduction to this new and quickly growing area of literary studies. Written by eight leading critics whose work has done much to establish the new field, they display the significant results of a largely unprecedented combination of cultural and cognitive analysis. The authors explore both narrative and dramatic genres, uncovering the tensions among presumably universal cognitive processes, and the local contexts within which complex literary texts are produced. Alan Richardson's opening essay evaluates current approaches to the study of literature and cognition, locating them on the map of recent literary studies, indicating their most compelling developments to date, and suggesting the most promising future directions. The seven essays that follow provide innovative readings of topics ranging from Shakespeare (Othello, Macbeth, Cymbeline, The Rape of Lucrece) through Samuel Richardson's Clarissa, to contemporary authors Ian McEwan and Gilbert Sorrentino. They underscore some of the limitations of new historicist and post-structuralist approaches to literary cultural studies while affirming the value of supplementing rather than supplanting them with insights and methods drawn from cognitive and evolutionary theory. Together, they demonstrate the analytical power of considering these texts in the context of recent studies of cultural universals, 'theory of mind,' cognitive categorization and genre, and neural-materialist theories of language and consciousness. This groundbreaking collection holds appeal for a broad audience, including students and teachers of literary theory, literary history, cultural studies, and literature and science studies.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface, Ellen Spolsky; Studies in literature and cognition: a field map (introduction), Alan Richardson; Stories and morals: emotion, cognitive exempla, and the Arabic Aristotelians, Patrick Colm Hogan; Women's work is chastity: Lucretia, Cymbeline, and cognitive impenetrability, Ellen Spolsky; Embodied literature: a cognitive-poststructuralist approach to genre, F. Elizabeth Hart; 'Fair is foul': Macbeth and binary logic, Mary Thomas Crane; Richardson's Clarissa and a theory of mind, Lisa Zunshine; God novels, Blakey Vermeule; Matter into imagination: the cognitive realism of Gilbert Sorrentino's Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things, Joseph Tabbi; Index.

About the Author/Editor

Alan Richardson is Professor of English at Boston College, USA and author of British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind. Ellen Spolsky is Professor of English at Bar-Ilan University and author of Satisfying Skepticism: Embodied Knowledge in the Early Modern World.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature