The Uses of Adversity: Failure and Accommodation in Reader Response

Bucknell University Press
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The essays in this volume contribute to the ongoing critical study of reader or audience responses to texts by focusing attention on the creative misunderstanding in the relationship. While demonstrating that response depends on the functioning of shared codes, it suggests that attempts to explain the communication of meaning will at the same time reveal the varieties of at least partial failure that will accompany it.
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About the author

ELLEN SPOLSKY is a Professor of English at Bar-Ilan University, Israel. She is a literary theorist with an appetite for biological theories such as cognitive cultural theory, iconotropism, performance theory, and even some aspects of evolutionary literary theory. Her books and essays have worked toward a sophisticated understanding of both the universal and historically local aspects of Renaissance art, poetry and drama.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Bucknell University Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 1990
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Pages
216
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ISBN
9780838751121
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Semiotics & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Contracts of Fiction reconnects our fictional worlds to the rest of our lives. Countering the contemporary tendency to dismiss works of imagination as enjoyable but epistemologically inert, the book considers how various kinds of fictions construct, guide, and challenge institutional relationships within social groups. The contracts of fiction, like the contracts of language, law, kinship, and money, describe the rules by which members of a group toggle between tokens and types, between their material surroundings - the stuff of daily life - and the abstractions that give it value. Rethinking some familiar literary concepts such as genre and style from the perspective of recent work in the biological, cognitive, and brain sciences, the book displays how fictions engage bodies and minds in ways that help societies balance continuity and adaptability. Being part of a community means sharing the ways its members use stories, pictures, plays and movies, poems and songs, icons and relics, to generate usable knowledge about the people, objects, beliefs and values in their environment. Exposing the underlying structural and processing homologies among works of imagination and life processes such as metabolism and memory, Ellen Spolsky demonstrates the seamless connection of life to art by revealing the surprising dependence of both on disorder, imbalance, and uncertainty. In early modern London, for example, reformed religion, expanding trade, and changed demographics made the obsolescent courts a source of serious inequities. Just at that time, however, a flood of wildly popular revenge tragedies, such as Hamlet, by their very form, by their outrageous theatrical grotesques, were shouting the need for change in the justice system. A sustained discussion of the genre illustrates how biological homeostasis underpins the social balance that we maintain with difficulty, and how disorder itself incubates new understanding.
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.
The Contracts of Fiction reconnects our fictional worlds to the rest of our lives. Countering the contemporary tendency to dismiss works of imagination as enjoyable but epistemologically inert, the book considers how various kinds of fictions construct, guide, and challenge institutional relationships within social groups. The contracts of fiction, like the contracts of language, law, kinship, and money, describe the rules by which members of a group toggle between tokens and types, between their material surroundings - the stuff of daily life - and the abstractions that give it value. Rethinking some familiar literary concepts such as genre and style from the perspective of recent work in the biological, cognitive, and brain sciences, the book displays how fictions engage bodies and minds in ways that help societies balance continuity and adaptability. Being part of a community means sharing the ways its members use stories, pictures, plays and movies, poems and songs, icons and relics, to generate usable knowledge about the people, objects, beliefs and values in their environment. Exposing the underlying structural and processing homologies among works of imagination and life processes such as metabolism and memory, Ellen Spolsky demonstrates the seamless connection of life to art by revealing the surprising dependence of both on disorder, imbalance, and uncertainty. In early modern London, for example, reformed religion, expanding trade, and changed demographics made the obsolescent courts a source of serious inequities. Just at that time, however, a flood of wildly popular revenge tragedies, such as Hamlet, by their very form, by their outrageous theatrical grotesques, were shouting the need for change in the justice system. A sustained discussion of the genre illustrates how biological homeostasis underpins the social balance that we maintain with difficulty, and how disorder itself incubates new understanding.
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.
The Contracts of Fiction reconnects our fictional worlds to the rest of our lives. Countering the contemporary tendency to dismiss works of imagination as enjoyable but epistemologically inert, the book considers how various kinds of fictions construct, guide, and challenge institutional relationships within social groups. The contracts of fiction, like the contracts of language, law, kinship, and money, describe the rules by which members of a group toggle between tokens and types, between their material surroundings - the stuff of daily life - and the abstractions that give it value. Rethinking some familiar literary concepts such as genre and style from the perspective of recent work in the biological, cognitive, and brain sciences, the book displays how fictions engage bodies and minds in ways that help societies balance continuity and adaptability. Being part of a community means sharing the ways its members use stories, pictures, plays and movies, poems and songs, icons and relics, to generate usable knowledge about the people, objects, beliefs and values in their environment. Exposing the underlying structural and processing homologies among works of imagination and life processes such as metabolism and memory, Ellen Spolsky demonstrates the seamless connection of life to art by revealing the surprising dependence of both on disorder, imbalance, and uncertainty. In early modern London, for example, reformed religion, expanding trade, and changed demographics made the obsolescent courts a source of serious inequities. Just at that time, however, a flood of wildly popular revenge tragedies, such as Hamlet, by their very form, by their outrageous theatrical grotesques, were shouting the need for change in the justice system. A sustained discussion of the genre illustrates how biological homeostasis underpins the social balance that we maintain with difficulty, and how disorder itself incubates new understanding.
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