ELCH - Studies in English Literary and Cultural History - Vol. 49

ELK - Studien zur Englischen Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft - Band 49


Stephan Freißmann

Fictions of Cognition 


Representing (Un)Consciousness and Cognitive Science in Contemporary English and American Fiction

Cognitive science makes more and more progress in understanding how brain and mind work. In the process, several cognitive scientists have called into question central elements of the occidental idea of man, elements that are equally central to occidental fiction. Freedom of will and the existence of consciousness are cases in point. Novelists in Great Britain and the United States have taken up this challenge and created uniquely literary reactions towards these claims. They aptly demonstrated that there are many aspects of human cognition that scientific method cannot explain, but that can be accessed by literary means. These fictions of cognition bring about a circulation of ideas between narrative fiction and cognitive science, which this study scrutinises by pursuing two arguments. The first argument is that narrative fiction is a medium of knowledge formation in its own right. The second argument is that the traditional narrative techniques for the literary representation of consciousness and unconsciousness must be re-assessed in the light of advances in cognitive science. These two arguments are made by drawing on concepts from philosophy, narratology and cognitive science. In seven case studies, contemporary novels by Ian McEwan, David Lodge, Mark Haddon and Richard Powers are analysed, as well as three examples of modernist stream of consciousness narration. These analyses provide a first step towards understanding the role of fiction in the negotiation of knowledge.


ISBN 978-3-86821-336-2, 260 S., kt., € 29,50 (2011)

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