"Cognitive Modernisms"--Special Issue of MFS (Modern Fiction Studies)

deadline for submissions: 
January 8, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Paul Armstrong, Brown University
contact email: 

Cognitive Modernisms


Guest Editor: Paul B. Armstrong, Brown University

Deadline for Submissions:   8 January 2021


Modernism has long been associated with an interest in consciousness, psychology, and the inner life, but critics have also long disagreed about how to understand this interest and what to make of it.  The recent proliferation of cognitive approaches to reading and literature has renewed interest in questions concerning the modernist preoccupation with consciousness but has spawned new controversies about how to address them. 


David Lodge argues that literary representations of cognitive life offer knowledge about what it is like to be conscious that is complementary to what the sciences can disclose, and Terence Cave describes literary history as a “cognitive archive” testifying to the many ways in which consciousness has been experienced and understood.  Modernist experiments with styles for representing consciousness would seem to offer a rich trove of materials for exploring various dimensions of cognitive life of interest to the contemporary sciences of mind.  Rejecting a pluralist approach, however, David Herman claims that modernist writers are united with contemporary cognitive science in rejecting a Cartesian splitting of mind and body, and he argues that this literary and scientific consensus about the embodiment of consciousness calls into question the very notion of a modernist “inward turn.”


How should we understand the variety of cognitive modernisms?  Do writers as different as Conrad, Joyce, Woolf, Lawrence, Barnes, Faulkner, Beckett, and Morrison agree on what consciousness is like and how to represent it?  Are the many styles in the modernist archive complementary representations of universal aspects of cognitive life that converge with the findings of science?  Or are they evidence of the historical and cultural plasticity of consciousness and the aesthetic variability of the modes of rendering that have sought to capture its diverse, changeable characteristics?  Should the styles of modernist representation be understood as manifestations of the peculiarities of cognitive life in the long twentieth century, for example, that are better studied historically rather than phenomenologically, as Jonathan Crary has done in his analyses of the social construction of vision and perception? 


This special issue on “Cognitive Modernisms” invites contributions that analyze what modernist texts reveal about consciousness, what different cognitive approaches reveal about modernism, or what the disputes about how to interpret modernist representations of consciousness reveal about the methodological and theoretical issues at stake in studies of modernism and cognition.  Essays are welcome that employ any of the many different approaches that characterize cognitive literary studies–for example:  4e cognition, experiential phenomenology, post-classical narratology, affect theory, disability studies, relevance theory, Bayesian predictive processing, kinematic approaches, and experimental studies.  Contributions are also encouraged that question the cognitive turn from historical, cultural, and political perspectives or from positions beyond the human (animal studies, the new materialism, the nonhuman, the Anthropocene, etc.).


Essays should be 7,000-9,000 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references, and should follow the MLA Handbook (8th edition) for internal citation and Works Cited.  Please submit your essay via the online submission form at the following web address: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mfs.


Queries should be directed to Paul Armstrong (Paul_Armstrong@Brown.edu).