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"A stellar contribution to cognitive historicist studies, Distraction is engagingly written, lucidly argued, and highly original. This book will be read, reviewed, and talked about."

"The problem of managing the distracted reader did not arise in the age of digital media. Eighteenth-century writers experimented with distraction to hold their readers’ attention and, in the process of doing so, advanced theories of concentration in eighteenth-century psychology. Weaving together literary criticism, history, and cognitive neuroscience (replete with the trailblazing fMRI studies of novel reading), Phillips tells a brilliant and witty story of attention and distraction. This is cognitive historicism at its best, a touchstone for interdisciplinary inquiry."

"This book has it all: a brilliant and thorough tour of eighteenth-century literary history, an equally brilliant and thorough tour of recent cognitive neuroscience, and a serious philosophical reflection on distraction and attention. The book is written for its readers in a widely accessible and enjoyable style. So wide-ranging is it in scope and ambition that it can lay claim to being a late Enlightenment manifesto for bringing together our humanistic and scientific ways of knowing."

"In her remarkable study, Phillips provides a new set of lenses for the reading of eighteenth-century literature. Her scrutiny of forms of attention (and its deficits) that literary texts debated, tested, and enacted will change the way we understand the formal strategies and fictive scenarios involved in representing both the scatter-brained and the mono-maniacally focused denizens of eighteenth-century fictional worlds. Well informed but not overawed by the debates and discoveries of contemporary neuroscience, and conversant with the narratology on representation of minds, Phillips offers a contextual study of the first order."

"A superb example of cognitive historicism, Phillips' book makes modern cognitive science attend to its own intellectual history. Her literary study focuses our attention on the eighteenth century and makes a strong case for the period as the climax in an ongoing story about distraction, wandering minds, and scattered attention. After fresh, insightful readings of Samuel Johnson, Eliza Haywood, Laurence Sterne, and William Godwin, Phillips treats her reader to a scientific stunt, delivering Jane Austen by way of magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In truth, her exposition is throughout punctuated with references to neuroanatomy and neuroimaging in order to establish the untold ways in which literature informs current thinking about the brain."

"Thoroughly informed by engagement with 17th- and 18th-century philosophies of mind, the book is also impressive for its periodic forays into modern cognitive science... Distraction is an important addition to the literature on 18th-century fiction and cognition. Highly recommended."

"It reads... as a manifesto for the possibility of a kind of research in which disciplines are combined not in the sense of serving each other, or borrowing from each other, but in true synergy. From all the aspects of Phillips’s book that are commendable – and there are many from its originality and clarity of argumentation through to its powers of interpretation – this is the most significant. Literature and science are on an equal footing here and the fruits of their combination are remarkable."

"Among its many strengths, Distraction’s greatest contribution is its elegant articulation of Phillips’s interdisciplinary methodology, which interlinks literary historicism and cognitive science to foster "productive dissonance between fi elds" (222)."

Problems of Attention in Eighteenth-Century Literature
Publication Date: 13 Sep 2016
Status: Available
Usually ships 2-3 business days after receipt of order.
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Page Count: 304 pages
Illustrations: 2 color photos, 17 halftones
ISBN: 9781421420127