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The Neural Sublime

, 200 pages

1 halftone, 4 line drawings

May 2010



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The Neural Sublime

Cognitive Theories and Romantic Texts

Winner, 2011 Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award in Literature and Fine Arts

The Neural Sublime brings recent work in cognitive neuroscience to bear on some famously vexed issues in British Romantic studies. In exciting and unprecedented ways, Alan Richardson demonstrates how developments in the neurosciences can transform the study of literary history.

Richardson presents six exemplary studies, each exploring a different intersection of Romanticism and the sciences of the mind and brain: the experience of the sublime and the neuroscience of illusion; the Romantic imagination and visual imaging; the figure of apostrophe and linguistic theory; fictional representations of the mind and "theory of mind" theory; depictions of sibling incest and neo-Darwinian theories of mental behavior; and representations of female speech and cognitive developmental psychology.

Richardson’s insightful analysis opens fresh perspectives on British Romanticism, pointing scholars to new developments in cognitive literary studies. He combines elements of new historicist analysis with original—and much-needed—models for understanding language, subjectivity, and social behavior. Far from signaling a departure from the prevalent critical approaches of new historicism, Richardson argues, cognitive theory presents an essential complement to them.

The Neural Sublime features an array of cognitive and neuroscientific approaches, providing an engaging and readable introduction to the emergent field of cognitive literary studies.

Alan Richardson is a professor of English at Boston College, author of British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind, and coeditor of The Work of Fiction: Cognition, Culture, and Complexity.

"Alan Richardson is an acknowledged pioneer in cognitive approaches to literature. His command of Romantic literature, the history of ideas of the Romantic era, and contemporary cognitive research is authoritative. In The Neural Sublime, he expands on his previous groundbreaking work in cognitive historicism by applying contemporary neuroscience to Romantic-era works."

"This exemplary book may prove one of the most influential books on Romantic literature for decades to come... Essential."

"A work of considerable variety and ambition, engagingly written, refreshingly undogmatic in its methods and generous in acknowledging related work in the field, The Neural Sublime will be essential reading for those interested in romanticism's relationship with the human sciences; it is also highly recommended for anyone in the field of romantic studies partial to interdisciplinary conversations."

"Accesible to experienced practitioners and novice readers alike, this volume makes an interdisciplinary evaluation of subjects and issues which isolated disciplines cannot tackle alone."

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