Deadline extended: Cognitive literary studies. Theories, methodologies, and challenges

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Luxembourg School of Religion & Society
contact email: 

Les études littéraires cognitives. Théories, méthodologies et défis

Cognitive literary studies. Theories, methodologies, and challenges


Journée d’études organisée par Luxembourg School of Religion & Society

Study day organized by the Luxembourg School of Religion & Society


Le 22 mai 2020, de 8h45 à 19h30

May 22, 2020, from 8:45 AM to 7:30 PM

Lieu/venue: Luxembourg School of Religion & Society

52, rue Jules Wilhelm, L-2728 Luxembourg


Deadline extended/délai supplémentaire : March 1, 2020/1er mars 2020


Call for Papers

According to Lisa Zunshine, the best definition of cognitive literary studies belongs to Alan Richardson: “the work of literary critics and theorists vitally interested in cognitive science […] and therefore with a good deal to say to one another, whatever their differences” [1]. Far from forming a school or a homogenous theoretical field, cognitive approaches to literature appeared in the 1980s and consist of bringing together literary interpretation and the paradigm that has been dominating science since the late 1950s. As Terence Cave puts it, although they do not hold a central place in literary studies, the methodologies that use cognitive science in literary interpretation are becoming more and more numerous [2]. Likewise, Lisa Zunshine noticed the exponential growth of the number of researchers interested in this field, stating that in 1999, when the Modern Language Association created its official discussion group on this topic, the group consisted of 250 members and by 2009, it already had 700 members, and in 2013, 2000 [3]. That said, in 2019, the interest in the study of literature through a cognitive prism has still not really left the Anglo-Saxon space where it emerged [4], despite a number of significant contributions that hail from other spaces, particularly from France and Italy [5], but also from Norway [6], Hungary [7], and Romania [8]. Cognitive literary studies is nowadays an eclectic, dynamic and promising field, which – despite the scepticism of those who do not share our interest for the study of the link between literature on the one hand, and the human mind and brain on the other – enriches our understanding of fiction, as well as of ourselves. In the end, stories reveal, as Mary-Laure Ryan reminds us, “the functioning of the human mind in one of its most fundamental, universal, and complex manifestations” [9].

On the one hand, cognitive literary studies resulted in the renewal of disciplines such as narratology [10] and poetics [11]. On the other hand, they provided new tools for the analysis of fiction. For instance, Monika Fludernik theorised the notion of “experientiality” [12], later taken up by Marco Caracciolo [13]. Guillemette Bolens examined the “kinaesthetic styles” and the literary depiction of embodied cognition [14]. Suzanne Keen suggested a typology of narrative empathy [15]. Sylvie Freyermuth, amongst others, turned to the theory of mind as a tool of literary interpretation [16], and researchers such as Alexandre Gefen and Emmanuel Bouju studied the status of emotions in literature [17]. Classical as well as contemporary authors have been productively (re)read through this innovative theoretical framework – see, for example, Mary Crane’s work on Shakespeare [18]. In the same vein, Emily Troscianko identified and theorised the aesthetics of cognitive realism [19], whilst Terence Cave developed a cognitive criticism [20]. Psychologists and neuroscientists such as Keith Oatley [21], Melanie Green, Timothy C. Brock [22], and Anna Abraham [23] investigated the mental and neural mechanisms at work during the interaction between fiction and the human mind and brain. Cognitive literary studies have also renewed the way in which we conceptualise fiction, through the prism of the theory of mind (Lisa Zunshine [24]) or through that of neurophenomenology (Paul Armstrong [25]). The status of the reader and the author are also being redefined [26], after several decades during which the author was excluded from literary analysis, while the reader was reduced to a mere abstract, operational, and disembodied notion (“implied reader”, “abstrakter Leser”).

Considering the eclecticism that defines cognitive literary studies as beneficial, we invite literary critics as well as researchers from all branches of cognitive science interested in this field to reflect together on the status, the theories, the methodologies and the challenges that cognitive literary studies are currently facing. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:


  • literary fiction in the light of the enactive paradigm, the 4E(embodied, embedded, enactive, extended) cognition, and the interoceptive turn
  • cognitive realism
  • the embodied reader and the embodied author
  • narrative empathy
  • fiction and emotions
  • the literary depiction of human, animal and machine cognition
  • critics and limits of cognitive approaches to literature
  • the status of cognitive literary studies in contemporary research


Abstracts of no more than 300 words, either in English or in French, as well as a bio-bibliographic notice (100-150 words), should be sent to by March 1, 2020. The authors will receive a notification of acceptance before March 15, 2020.


Keynote speaker: Marco Caracciolo, Ghent University


This event is the first in a series of study days on cognitive literary studies that will take place at the LSRS. The goal of this event is to prepare the international conference on cognitive literary studies organised by the LSRS in 2021.


Scientific committee:

Prof. Jean Ehret, Luxembourg School of Religion & Society

Prof. Sylvie Freyermuth, University of Luxembourg

Prof. Marie-Agnès Cathiard, University of Grenoble-Alpes

Prof. Timea Gyimesi, University of Szeged

Diana Mistreanu, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow & Senior Lecturer, Luxembourg School of Religion & Society


[1] Alan Richardson quoted by Lisa Zunshine in “Introduction to Cognitive Literary Studies”, in Lisa Zunshine (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 1.

[2] Terence Cave, “Penser la littérature: vers une approche cognitive”, in Françoise Lavocat (ed.), Interprétation littéraire et sciences cognitives, Paris, Hermann, 2016, p. 15-16.

[3] Lisa Zunshine, “Introduction to Cognitive Literary Studies”, in Lisa Zunshine (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 1.

[4] Cf. Françoise Lavocat, “Introduction”, in Françoise Lavocat (ed.), Interprétation littéraire et sciences cognitives, Paris, Hermann, 2016, p. 6.

[5] Stefano Calabrese and Stefano Ballerio (eds.), Linguaggio, letteratura e scienze neuro-cognitive, Ledizioni, Milano, 2014, and Marco Caracciolo and Marco Bernini, Letteratura e scienze cognitive, Roma, Carocci, 2013.

[6] Jon-Arild Olsen, L’Esprit du roman. Œuvre, fiction et récit, Bern, Peter Lang, 2004.

[7] Gabriella Bandura, “Littérature et sciences cognitives: apports et légitimité d’une lecture transversale”, Carnets, no 9, 2017, online,, November 21, 2019. We should also mention the research unit “Poétique cognitive” (“Cognitive Poetics”)of the University of Szeged.

[8] Gabriela Tucan, “The reader’s mind beyond the text – The science of cognitive narratology”, Romanian Journal of English Studies, vol. 10, no 1, 2013, p. 299-308.

[9] Marie-Laure Ryan, “Narratologie et sciences cognitives: une relation problématique”, Cahiers de narratologie. Analyse et théorie narratives, vol. 28, 2015, p. 17, our translation.

[10] David Herman (ed.), Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis, Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 1999; Alan Palmer, Fictional Minds, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2004, and Social Minds in the Novel, Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 2010 ; Monika Fludernik, “Narratology in the Twenty-First Century: The Cognitive Approach to Narrative”, Modern Language Association (MLA), vol. 125, no 4, 2010, p. 924-930.

[11] Peter Stockwell, Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction,New-York, Routledge, 2002. Cf. Karin Kukkonen, A Prehistory of Cognitive Poetics. Neoclassicism and the Novel, New York, Oxford University Press, 2017.

[12] Monika Fludernik, Towards a “Natural” Narratology, London, Routledge, 1996, p. 9 et seq.

[13] Marco Caracciolo, The Experientiality of Narrative. An Enactivist Approach, Berlin, De Gruyter, 2014.

[14] Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

[15] Suzanne Keen, Empathy and the Novel, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, and “A Theory of Narrative Empathy”, Narrative, vol. 14, no 3, 2006, p. 207-236.

[16 ] Sylvie Freyermuth, “Théorie de l’esprit et temporalité subjective chez le personnage flaubertien”, in Pierre Marillaud et Robert Gauthier (eds.), La Temporalité,Toulouse, Presses de l’Université de Toulouse Le Mirail, 2008, p. 207-214, and “Anticipation, polyphonie et théorie de l'esprit", in ouvrage collectif, Hommage à Maguy Albet. De la critique littéraire au roman, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2010, p. 61-94.

[17] Alexandre Gefen and Emmanuel Bouju (eds.). L’Émotion, puissance de la littérature?, Bordeaux, Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2012.

[18] Mary Crane, Shakespeare’s Brain: Reading with Cognitive Theory,Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001.

[19] Emily T. Troscianko, Kafka’s Cognitive Realism, New York-Londres, Routledge, 2016; “The cognitive realism of memory in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary”, The Modern Language Review, vol. 107, no 3, 2012, p. 772-795, and “Cognitive realism and memory in Proust’s madeleine episode”, Memory Studies, vol. 6, no 4, 2013, p. 437-456.

[20] Terence Cave, Thinking with Literature: Towards a Cognitive Criticism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.

[21] Keith Oatley, Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction, Hoboken, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

[22] Melanie C. Green, Jeffrey J. Strange and Timothy C. Brock (eds.), Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, Mahwah, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002, and Melanie C. Green. “Transportation Into Narrative Worlds: The Role of Prior Knowledge and Perceived Realism”, Discourse Processes, vol. 38, no 2, 2010, p. 247-266.

[23] Anna Abraham, D. Yves von Cramon and Ricarda I. Schubitz, “Meeting George Bush versus meeting Cinderella: the neural response when telling apart what is real from what is fictional in the context of our reality”, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 20, no 6, 2008, p. 965-976. Cf. Franziska Hartung, Peter Withers, Peter Hagoort and Roel M. Willems, “When Fiction is Just as Real as Fact: No Difference in Reading Behavior between Stories Believed to be Based on True or Fictional Events”, Frontiers in Psychology, 2017, online, November 21, 2019.

[24] Lisa Zunshine, Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel, Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 2006.

[25] Paul B. Armstrong, How Literature Plays With Your Brain. The Neuroscience of Reading and Art, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.

[26] Cf. Marie-Laure Ryan, “Meaning, intent and the implied author”, Style, vol. 45, no 1, “Implied Author: Back from the Grave or Simply Dead Again”, 2011, p. 29-47.


Other bibliographical references:

Alexandrov, Vladimir E. “Literature, Literariness, and the Brain”, Comparative Literature, vol. 59, no 2, 2007, p. 97-118, and Francisco Ortega et Fernando Vidal, “Brains in Literature/Literature in the Brain”, Poetics Today, vol. 34, no 3, p. 327-360.

Djikic, Maja, Keith Oatley, Sara Zoeterman et Jordan Peterson. “On Being Moved by Art: How Reading Fiction Transforms the Self”, Creativity Research Journal, vol. 21, no 1, 2009, p. 24-29.

Fludernik, Monika. “Narratology in the Twenty-First Century: The Cognitive Approach to Narrative”, Modern Language Association (MLA), vol. 125, no 4, 2010, p. 924-930.

Garratt, Peter (ed.). The Cognitive Humanities. Embodied Mind in Literature and Culture, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, 259 p.

Gerrig, Richard J. Experiencing Narrative Worlds, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1993, 288 p.

Gottschall, Jonathan. Literature, Science, and a New Humanities, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, 236 p.

Grall Catherine (ed.), Récit de fiction et représentation mentale, Mont-Saint-Aignan, Presses Universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2007, 110 p.

Hutchins, Edwin. Cognition in the Wild, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press, 1995, 402 p.

--- “Enaction, Imagination, and Insight”, in John Stewart, Olivier Gapenne et Ezequiel A. Di Paolo (eds.), Enaction. Toward a New Paradigm for Cognitive Science, Cambridge (Mass.), MIT Press, 2010, p. 425-450.

Knapp, John V. Striking at the Joints: Contemporary Psychology and Literary Criticism, Lanham, University Press of America, 1996, 316 p.

Lavocat, Françoise. Fait et fiction. Pour une frontière, Paris, Seuil, 2016, 640 p.

Mar, Raymond A., Keith Oatley, Jacob Hirsh, Jennifer dela Paz et Jordan B. Peterson. “Bookworms versus nerds: Exposure to fiction versus non-fiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds”, Journal of Research in Personality, vol. 40, 2006, p. 694-712.

Phelan, James. “Rhetorical Theory, Cognitive Theory and Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’. From Parallel Play to Productive Collaboration”, in Lisa Zunshine (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 120-135.

Phillips, Natalie M. “Literary Neuroscience and History of Mind: An Interdisciplinary fMRI Study of Attention and Jane Austen”, in Lisa Zunshine (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 55-81.

Polvinen, Merja. “Enactive Perception and Fictional Worlds”, in Peter Garratt (ed.), The Cognitive Humanities. Embodied Mind in Literature and Culture, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, p. 19-34.

Schaeffer, Jean-Marie. Pourquoi la fiction?, Le Seuil, Paris, 1999, 346 p.

Sperber, Dan et Deirdre Wilson. La Pertinence. Communication et cognition, Paris, Minuit, 1989, transl. From English by Abel Gerschenfeld and Dan Sperber, 400 p.

Spolsky, Ellen. Gaps in Nature: Literary Interpretation and the Modular Mind,Albany, State University of New York Press,1993, 247 p.

--- The Contracts of Fiction. Cognition, Culture, Community, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, 320 p.

Troscianko, Emily T. and Michael Burke (eds.), Cognitive Literary Science. Dialogues Between Literature and Cognition, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, 368 p.

Tsur, Reuven. Poetic Conventions as Cognitive Fossils, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, 304 p.

--- Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics, Brighton et Portland, Sussex Academic Press, 2008, 573 p.

Turner, Mark. Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science, Princeton, Princeton University Press,1991, 298 p.

--- The Literary Mind, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996, 187 p.

Wehrs, Donald R. “Affective Dissonance and Literary Mediation: Emotion Processing, Ethical Signification, and Aesthetic Autonomy in Cervantes’s Art of the Novel”, Cervantes : Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America, vol. 32, no 1, “Cognitive Cervantes”, 2012, p. 201-230.

Whalen, Douglas H., Lisa Zunshine et Michael Holquist. “Increases in Perspective Embedding Increase Reading Time Even with Typical Text Presentation: Implications for the Reading of Literature”, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, 2015, online, 21, 2019.

Williams, David. The Trickster Brain. Neuroscience, Evolution, and Narrative, Lanham-New York, Lexington Books, 2012, 314 p.

Wilson, Deirdre. “Relevance Theory and Literary Interpretation”, in Terence Cave and Deirdre Wilson (eds.), Reading Beyond the Code. Literature and Relevance Theory, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018, p. 185-204.

Zunshine, Lisa (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, 680 p.