Gaps in Nature: Literary Interpretation and the Modular Mind

SUNY Press
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This book is a study of the relation between cognitive linguistics and literary theory. Theory of literary interpretation is reinterpreted in terms of current debate in cognitive science. While research in the humanities and social sciences is reasonably concerned with charting the power of culture to structure and constrain, Spolsky suggests that it is worthwhile to investigate the role of biological materialism as co-legislator of human life and understanding. The inevitable slippage we have come to acknowledge between words and the world has at least an analogue, and presumably also a source, in the workings of the human brain.
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About the author

Ellen Spolsky is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Lechter Institute for Literary Research at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
247
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ISBN
9781438420837
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Political
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Ellen Spolsky
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.
Ellen Spolsky
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.
Ellen Spolsky
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.
Ellen Spolsky
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.
Ellen Spolsky
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.
Ellen Spolsky
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.
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