Program in Comparative Literature

Cognitive Narratology Lecture by Terence Cave on Wed., March 22nd at 5:30

Wed, March 8, 2017
Cognitive Narratology Lecture by Terence Cave on Wed., March 22nd at 5:30
Lecture by Terence Cave

As if, from fireflies, one could infer the field

Literature as cognitive environment

Public Lecture by Prof. Terence Cave, St. John’s College, Oxford University

Wed., Mar. 22, 2017   5:30 pm     Glickman Conference Center   CLA 3.102B

Description:  Cognition (the complete set of resources that a biologically evolved creature has for perceiving, interpreting and responding to its local ecology) is by its nature situated, engaging at all times with actual or potential environments. Literature (in the broadest sense) may be regarded as a paradigm of situated cognition: it enables the construction of an extended imaginative ecology.

Drawing on brief but precise literary examples, this lecture will review central aspects of cognition such as inference, the as-if function, reflective and automatic cognition, and the imaginative fluidity which is the signature of human as opposed to animal cognition. It will argue that literature as a form of human behaviour is neither a side-effect nor a side-issue. Whether considered in terms of its production or its consumption, it is one of the most valuable cognitive resources we possess.

Speaker: Terence Cave is Emeritus Professor of French Literature and Emeritus Research Fellow, St John’s College, Oxford University.  Since 2010 Cave has directed the project “Literature as an Object of Knowledge,” funded by the Balzan Foundation and St John’s College, Oxford, and devoted primarily to the exploration of cognitive approaches to literature. His recent book Thinking with Literature: Toward a Cognitive Criticism (2016) examines neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary studies to demonstrate how literature drives human evolution. Other books by Cave include  Mignon’s Afterlives: Crossing Cultures from Goethe to the Twenty-First Century; How to Read Montaigne; Recognitions: A Study in Poetics; and The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance.


This lecture is sponsored by the Department of English, the Plan II Honors Program, the Department of French and Italian, the Program in Comparative Literature, and the Humanities Institute.  This lecture is free and open to the public.

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