English R1B

Reading and Composition: Cognitive Poetics

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Spring 2007 Tracy Auclair
TTh 12:30-2:00 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Joanna Gavins and Gerard Steen,Cognitive Poetics in Practice.

Richard Gerrig, Experiencing Narrative Worlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading.

Mark Johnson, The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason.

Peter Stockwell, Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction.

Mark Turner, Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Poetics.

A course reader which will include essays, poems, and short stories."


"In this class, we will learn about a new and exciting approach to the study of literature called cognitive poetics. Cognitive poetics is not a homogeneous school of criticism, but a constellation of diverse assumptions about and practical techniques for analyzing how readers cognitively process the stylistic features of literary texts. It draws from many areas of cognitive science, including cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, discourse psychology, social psychology, and psycholinguistics. When studies in cognitive poetics appeared in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the majority of them were produced by scholars from literature departments in Europe and Israel, and went virtually unnoticed by their American counterparts. However, over the last decade, cognitive poetics has become increasingly accepted among American literary critics. This class will introduce students to its goals, methods, problems and possibilities.

We will consider cognitive poetics in relation to some of its methodological predecessors and think about their similarities and differences. How does it compare to formal, historical and cultural interpretations of literature? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a cognitive poetic approach? Adopting the principles of particular cognitive poetic frameworks--including prototype theory, possible worlds theory, research on figure and ground, cognitive grammar, and cognitive deixis--we will produce analyses of poems and short stories and think about how these analyses might relate to readings motivated by more conventional forms of literary criticism.

Students will explore these issues while learning to read critically, propose arguments, and perform research tasks. Over the course of the semester, students will produce approximately 32 pages of writing. This writing will be broken down into three essays which will increase in length as the term progresses. The final two papers will require students to use academic sources beyond those provided in class. "

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