What is the audience of an interdisciplinary book? Vera Tobin's Elements of Surprise seems at first glance to belong to an increasingly robust field of cognitive literary studies books that use the findings and theoretical framework of cognitive psychology to explain aspects of literary form. Most previous works in this subfield, though, have been avowedly by and for literary scholars (Lisa Zunshine's Why We Read Fiction , Alan Richardson's The Neural Sublime , Blakey Vermeule's Why Do We Care about Literary Characters? , Natalie Phillips's Distraction ), offering a primer on concepts from psychology and neuroscience while taking for granted a certain familiarity with literary history and theory. Elements of Surprise takes none of this for granted, and the book's true audience seems to be a (lightly idealized, but one can dream) version of the general reader, one who not only consumes and...
HANNAH WALSER is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. Her work focuses on the literary history of cognition. She has completed a book manuscript, “Thinking with Strangers: Theories of Mind in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” and is currently at work on a history of the homunculus as a metaphor for mental faculties in literature and science.
Hannah Walser; Spoiler Alert. Novel 1 November 2020; 53 (3): 476–480. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-8624679
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