Stories and Minds: Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative

Stories and Minds: Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative

Stories and Minds: Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative

Stories and Minds: Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative

Synopsis

How do narratives draw on our memory capacity? How is our attention guided when we are reading a literary narrative? What kind of empathy is triggered by intercultural novels? A cast of international scholars explores these and other questions from an interdisciplinary perspective in Stories and Minds, a collection of essays that discusses cutting-edge research in the field of cognitive narrative studies. Recent findings in the philosophy of mind and cognitive psychology, among other disciplines, are integrated in fresh theoretical perspectives and illustrated with accompanying analyses of literary fiction.

Pursuing such topics as narrative gaps, mental simulation in reading, theory of mind, and folk psychology, these essays address fundamental questions about the role of cognitive processes in literary narratives and in narrative comprehension. Stories and Minds reveals the rich possibilities for research along the nexus of narrative and mind.

Excerpt

The present collection of essays offers a sample of cutting-edge research in the field of cognitive narrative studies. The workings and effects of literary narratives provide the main focus, but the collection also reflects upon the relations between hermeneutic and empirical tendencies as they increasingly affect the study of cognition and narrative. In particular, the chapters in this volume will show how speculative research on readers’ positions can supplement empirical inquiries. In the remainder of our introduction, we first summarize some of the trends in the cognitive study of literature against the background of literary theory. We start off with a phenomenon that has been thoroughly examined in literary theory and that is approached with new tools in several of the chapters in this volume: the gappy nature of literary narratives. At the end of our introduction, we provide a synopsis of the separate chapters.

Minds, Narrative, and the Pursuit of Gappiness

One of the sections in B. S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates (1969), a book published in the form of twenty-seven unbound chapters in a box, starts with a reflection on narrativization and style. How will the narrator, who is a sports journalist, report on the local soccer derby? He considers using the bald spots on the field as a metaphor in his article: “The pitch worn, the worn patches, like There might be an image, there, if I can think of one, at this stage of the season, it might too stand for what these two teams are like, are doing. If I can think of one” (Johnson 1969, 1). While the character-narrator is thinking about these worn patches, they already materialize in front of the reader’s eyes. The bald spots in Johnson’s text echo the narrator’s thoughts as well as the narrator’s thinking. His mind and his narrative are full of gaps and sudden shift s, and . . .

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