Second-Generation Cognitive Approaches to Literature (NeMLA 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
Dan Irving, Stony Brook University

Now accepting proposals for a panel on Second-Generation Cognitive Approaches to Literature at NeMLA 2016, to be held March 17-20, in Hartford, Connecticut.

The goal of this panel is to provide a forum in which to present new research within the "second generation" of cognitive literary studies. The "second generation" tag refers specifically to a strand of cognitive science that foregrounds the notion of mental processes as embodied, embedded, enacted, extended, and distributed. This is a sharp turn from traditional, or first-generation cognitive science, which viewed the mind as a propositional, information-based computer-type processor. Over the last ten years, literary scholars inspired by the movement toward embodiment in cognitive science have been making a case for the centrality of embodiment in literature. From metaphorical language to spatial descriptions and thematic patterns, many aspects of literary texts build on schemata drawn from physical modes of engagement with the world and demonstrate the body's interrelatedness with meaning-making processes. This panel topic has its roots in existing studies within cognitive approaches to literature that are, as Karin Kukkonen and Marco Caracciolo note in a recent special issue of Style, in many ways already "second generation." Examples here include the "embodiedness" of "narrative experientiality" in Monika Fludernik's Towards a "Natural" Narratology and David Herman's Storytelling and the Sciences of Mind, with its theorization of narrative engagement through enactivism. In a more historical and interpretive tradition, Ellen Spolsky's Satisfying Skepticism and Alan Richardson's The Neural Sublime engage with concepts of embodiment to notable extents. The panel will expand upon various aspects of second-generation cognitive science as it relates to the study of literature and thus engage with the sort of living (as opposed to retrospective) map of cognitive approaches that Kukkonen suggests will open up new perspectives in the field.

To submit a proposal, please visit:

Direct any inquiries to Dan Irving, Stony Brook University: