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Thinking With Literature

Thinking with Literature book cover
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 -
12:30pm to 2:00pm
Radcliffe Humanities Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road
Seminar Room

Bringing together cognitive sciences, philosophy, and the theory of communication, Thinking With Literature argues that what literature affords above all is a way of thinking, whether for writer, reader, or critic. We are joined by the author Terence Cave (Emeritus Professor of French Literature and Emeritus Research Fellow, St John’s College), who will discuss his new book with:

Ilona Roth (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Open University)
Marina Warner (Weidenfeld Professor of Comparative European Literature, St Anne's College, University of Oxford)
Deirdre Wilson (Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, UCL)

The discussion will be chaired by Emily Troscianko (Member of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford).

Part of Book at Lunchtime, a fortnightly series of bite size book discussions, with commentators from a range of disciplines. Join us for a sandwich lunch from 12:30, with discussion from 13:00 to 13:45.

Free, all welcome. No booking required, seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. 

About the book

To speak of 'thinking with literature' is to make the assumption that literature (in the broadest sense) is neither a side-show nor a side-issue in human cultures: it belongs to the spectrum of imaginative modes that includes both philosophical and scientific thought. Whether one regards it as a practice or as an archive, literature is highly pervasive, robust, enduring, and pregnant with values. Thinking with Literature argues that what it affords above all is a way of thinking, whether for writer, reader, or critic. Literature constitutes one of the prime instruments of cultural improvisation; it is the embodiment of a powerful, inventive, and ever-changing cognitive agency. As such, it invites a cognitive mode of criticism, one which asserts the priority of the individual literary work as a unique product of human cognition. In this book, discussions of topics, arguments, and hypotheses from the cognitive sciences, philosophy, and the theory of communication are woven into the fabric of a critical analysis which insists on the value of close reading: a poem by Yeats, a scene from Shakespeare, novels by Mme de Lafayette, Conrad, Frantzen, stories from Winnie-the-Pooh and many others appear here on their own terms, with their own cognitive energies. Written in an accessible style, Thinking with Literature speaks both to mainstream readers of literature and to specialists in cognitive studies.

Contact name: 
Hannah Penny
Open to all