Literature and the New Cognitive Science

Chair: Dr Alex Thomson, University of Edinburgh


Professor Andrew Roberts, School of Humanities, University of Dundee – Enactivism and the Modernist Self

Eleanore Widger, University of Dundee – ‘Thus am I still / A lover of […] All the might world / Of eye, and ear, – both what they half create, / And what perceive’: Wordsworth and Extended Cognition’

Dr Peter Garratt, Dept. of English Studies, Durham University – Out There: Realism and the Distributed Mind

To make headway on this project [explicating selfhood and subjectivity from the ground up by accounting for the autonomy proper to living and cognitive beings], we need to draw from biology, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and phenomenology. (Evan Thompson Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind p. 14)

Despite the ambitiously interdisciplinary nature of Thompson’s book, he does not include literature this list, even though literature arguably offers the richest, most subtle and most compelling accounts of human experience and subjectivity (and despite the fact that Evans regards experience as ‘central to any understanding of the mind’, p. 13). Nevertheless, literary critics and theorists have begun in recent years to pay increasing attention to theories of distributed or situated cognition: notably the ‘4 Es’ of enacted, embodied, embedded and extended mind. This panel draws on Romantic, Victorian and Modernist iterations of these theories in order to emphasise the role literature can play in a project such as Thompson’s, as well as pointing out new insights into the literature provided by contemporary theories of cognition.

Thursday 6th July, 3.30