Daniel M. Gross does not want the relationship between literary studies and cognitive or neurological sciences to get too cozy. In recent cognitive approaches to literature (CAL) and the work of so-called literary Darwinism, he finds literary scholars embracing theories of mind that shortchange the complex phenomenon that is human emotion. Consilience, as promoted by A. O. Wilson and Stephen Pinker, may be one term of art for such coziness, but it is no friend to human emotion, let alone the humanities. Then again, cozy relationships, simple happiness, and comfortable feelings more generally provoke Gross, leading him to investigate how “the terms of our comfort take shape polemically” (3). He proposes, therefore, “a critical history of well-being, where sentimental literature of the eighteenth century provides the pivot point,” articulating the construction of emotional well-being with everything that construction disallows (3). He does not quite succeed in writing that critical...
MARY A. FAVRET is professor of English and affiliate faculty in the Program in Women and Gender Studies at Johns Hopkins University. She has written extensively on the literature and culture of the long Romantic period, with special attention to issues of gender and genre, questions of history, and the role of feeling in wartime. She is currently working on a study of the culture of reading, its difficulties and pains.
Mary A. Favret; Passionate Environments?. Novel 1 August 2019; 52 (2): 313–317. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-7547002
Download citation file: