English 250

Research Seminar: Literature and the Brain

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Fall 2016 Gang, Joshua
Thurs. 3:30-6:30 186 Barrows Graduate Courses

Other Readings and Media

See below.


As imaging and computational technologies become more adept at measuring the neurology of reading and writing, literary study faces a number of challenges. Some of these challenges—like instrumentalizing fMRI data or working with live subjects—are relatively recent and raise new questions about what literary criticism can entail. But other difficulties—like literary study’s approach to empirical problems of mind, or the relation between aesthetic experiences and brain states, or the apparent gap between quantitative research and determinations of value—aren’t new at all. These problems already have long literary, scientific, philosophical, and critical histories. And as interest intensifies in cognitive literary study, these older problems intensify and their histories become even more important to know.

Looking across literary periods and national traditions, “Literature and the Brain” will examine both the opportunities and difficulties that cognitive science and philosophy of mind afford to literary criticism. Topics of discussion will include: the relation of self-knowledge, other minds, and dualism to literary form and convention; language acquisition and use; theories of physicalism, supervenience, and multiple realizability; intention, interiority, and memory; theory of mind; the relation of cognitive literary study to older models of literary criticism and “theory”; and recent discussions of neuroaesthetics, cultural neuroscience, Darwinian approaches to literature etc.

Literary readings will likely include those by Dante, Cavendish, Mary Shelley, Coleridge, Woolf, Faulkner, Beckett, Pinter, Haddon, Fanon, Coetzee, McEwan, and Kronovet.

Philosophical and scientific readings will likely include those by Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Hobbes, Hume, Hartley, Kant, Bell, James, Lashley, Watson, Skinner, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, Ryle, Sellars, Anscombe, Place, Fodor, Putnam, Davidson, Nagel, Churchland, Gleason, Libet, Mele, Searle, Johnson-Laird, Goldman, Chalmers, Noë, and others.

Critical readings will likely include those by Richards, Wimsatt and Beardsley, Lukács, Kramnick, Lynch, Scarry, Dames, Bérubé, Zunshine, Phelan, Starr, Spiller, Richardson, Jager and Savarese, Ohmann, Vermeule, Spolsky, Phillips, Easterlin, and others.

This course satisfies the Group 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: The Graphic Memoir Wong, Hertha D. Sweet
250/3 Research Seminar: Textual Communities and the Modern Picciotto, Joanna M
250/4 Research Seminar: Evolution and Literary Form, 1800-1900 Duncan, Ian
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/2 Research Seminar: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Representing in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction Sorensen, Janet
250/3 Research Seminar: Milton and the English Civil War Kahn, Victoria
250/4 Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique Lavery, Grace
250/5 Research Seminar: Black Abstraction Best, Stephen M.
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Victorian Cultural Studies Puckett, Kent
250/2 Research Seminar: How to Write a Book Kahn, Victoria
250/3 Research Seminar: Paranoid States: Empire and the Rise of the Surveillance State Saha, Poulomi
250/4 Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism Abel, Elizabeth
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Collaboration Goodman, Kevis
250/2 Research Seminar: Modernism in Poetry and in Art Altieri, Charles F.
250/3 Research Seminar: Idols and Ideology—Readings in Augustine, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Kant, Marx, Freud, Althusser Kahn, Victoria
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain Picciotto, Joanna M
250/2 Research Seminar: Ethnic Modernisms Lee, Steven S.
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Capitalist Crisis and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
250/2 Research Seminar: The Limits of Historicism Best, Stephen M.
250/3 Research Seminar: How It Strikes a Contemporary: Reading the Novel in the 21st Century Snyder, Katherine
Snyder, Katie
250/4 Research Seminar: Modernism's Metaphysics Blanton, C. D.

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