Cognitive Cultural Studies

Cognitive cultural studies is an interdisciplinary field that combines literary and cultural analysis with insights from neuroscience, discursive psychology, cognitive evolutionary psychology and anthropology, cognitive linguistics, and philosophy of mind. That readers, both specialist and non-specialist, are eager for an informed and sustained conversation about literature, culture, and cognition is apparent from the stream of conferences, essays, monographs, and world wide web discussions on the subject. To use just one instance of the interest that it elicits, the membership in the MLA official discussion group on cognitive approaches to literature has grown from two hundred and fifty in 1999, the year it was organized, to over eighteen hundred in 2011. (In December 2011, the group was granted division status.)

At present, the best overview of the field is offered by the volume Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies (Johns Hopkins UP, 2010), which includes essays on literary universals, cognitive historicism, cognitive narratology, and cognitive approaches in dialogue with other theoretical approaches, such as postcolonial studies, ecocriticism, aesthetics, and poststructuralism. This volume provides readers with grounding in several major areas of cognitive science, applies insights from cognitive science to cultural representations, and recognizes the cognitive approach's commitment to seeking common ground with existing literary-theoretical paradigms. It features work by Mary Thomas Crane, Nancy Easterlin, David Herman, Patrick Colm Hogan, Bruce McConachie, Alan Palmer, Alan Richardson, Ellen Spolsky, G. Gabrielle Starr, Blakey Vermeule, and Lisa Zunshine.

Selected publications

“What is Cognitive Cultural Studies?” Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. 1-33 (pdf)