From Poetic to Cognitive: Bridging Literature and Science in Cognitive Poetics

Although the relationship between literature and philosophy issanctioned by a long tradition, such a link reveals many limitations: philosophically anchored text analyses are subjective, impressionistic and reductive in their use of “text - active models” (Holland 1995). Cognitive poetics (Tsur 1992; Stockwell 2002), a burgeoning school of literary criticism, avoids those traps by re- shifting its attention to the reader’s mind and by “applying the principles of cognitive science to the interpretation of literary texts” (Louwerse & van Peer 424). In doing so, it attempts to build a bridge between the sciences and the humanities. Despite itsrefreshing approach, CP is still banished to the margins of criticism; the reason being that it is seen by the humanities as: (1)foregrounding the cognitive at the expense of the poetic (Danaher 2) and (2) relying too heavily on cognitive neuroscience. This paper explores to what extent cognitive science has influenced the field of literary studies. Through examination of three seminal books on CP (Stockwell 2002; Gavins and Steen 2003; Brône and Vandaele2009) and the essay “Music and Movement” (2012) by Lawrence Zbikowski, it aims both (1) to demarcate the boundaries betweenthe cognitive and the poetic in selected cognitive analyses of literary texts and (2) to explore to what extent the application of scientific theories has had an impact on the language cognitivescholars use in their papers. Finally, this paper argues that if CP isto be recognized as a reliable methodology, it should borrowinsights from reception theory and go truly empirical
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