Comparative literature and cognitive literary studies both consider literature as a worldwide phenomenon. The move toward world literature in comparative literature made salient the issue of reading some texts in translation, and world literature turned its attention to whether texts are entirely translatable and how center and periphery in the “world republic of literature” are organized around languages that are predominantly translated (or translated into). This article proposes that cognitive literary studies and comparative literature could enter into conversation around the topic of language differences and translation. For cognitive literary studies, the approaches of predictive processing and embodied cognition have in recent years developed the conceptual means to include these differences in our discussions without falling back on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Language shapes thought, but it does so in a flexible exchange between verbal markers and language-created contexts. The author models this exchange for literary texts by means of salient verbal markers that indicate plot events and outlines possible shared avenues of future research for cognitive literary studies and comparative literature along these lines. The examples discussed are the Finnish national epic Kalevala, its French and English translations, and the contemporary novel Sankarit by Johanna Sinisalo.
Does Cognition Translate?: Predictions, Plot, and World Literature
Karin Kukkonen is professor in comparative literature at the University of Oslo. She has published on cognitive approaches to literature, narratology, and eighteenth-century fiction in her monographs A Prehistory of Cognitive Poetics: Neoclassicism and the Novel (2017), 4E Cognition and Eighteenth-Century Fiction: How the Novel Found Its Feet (2019), and Probability Designs: Literature and Predictive Processing (2020). At the University of Oslo, she is the convenor of the interdisciplinary research initiative “Literature, Cognition and Emotions” (2019–23).
Karin Kukkonen; Does Cognition Translate?: Predictions, Plot, and World Literature. Poetics Today 1 June 2020; 41 (2): 243–259. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-8172556
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