Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 31, 2017

Bodies, Spaces, and Cultural Models: On Bridging the Gap between Culture and Cognition

  • Marcus Hartner EMAIL logo


Over the past two decades cognitive literary studies (CLS) has emerged as a new subfield of literary studies. Despite the success of cognitive theories in some areas of research such as in narratology, however, the impact of CLS on the academic discipline of literary and cultural studies as a whole has not been as profound as predicted. Major schools of research, e.g. postcolonial studies or gender studies, remain virtually untouched, and the vast majority of literary scholars are still sceptical or indifferent towards this area of research. Reasons for this scepticism include, for example, epistemological and methodological uncertainties concerning the interdisciplinary intersection of science and literature. But scholars have also begun to address another lacuna in contemporary research that may prove to be of equal or even more profound consequence: the lack of a solid and widely accepted conceptual and analytical bridge between cognitive approaches and the wide field of cultural studies. It is a well-known fact that the study of culture in its many theoretical guises has taken a lead role in philology departments around the globe. Though not every scholar welcomes this development, it would certainly be unwise to ignore the general impact of cultural studies on philology. For this reason, my paper argues that CLS not only needs to engage in a productive interdisciplinary dialogue between literary scholars and cognitive scientists but it also needs to incorporate cultural studies into this dialogue. In other words, an important challenge lies in making cognitive approaches relevant for cultural analysis.

This paper engages with current attempts to face this challenge. It provides a survey of approaches that aim to build a conceptual bridge between culture and cognition and thus take a step towards extending cognitive approaches into the field of cultural studies. For this purpose, I adopt the distinction between so-called ›first‹ and ›second generation‹ approaches in order to group this research heuristically into two academic camps: (1) approaches that emphatically foreground so-called second generation cognitive science as their prime source of inspiration, i.e. approaches that engage with enactive, embedded, extended, and embodied aspects of cognition; and (2) studies which do not explicitly situate themselves within this paradigm and rather seek innovation by turning to more ›classical‹, foundational ›first generation‹ concepts of mental representation, information- and text processing. By discussing examples from both lines of research, including work by Kukkonen/Caracciolo (2014), Strasen (2013), Sommer (2013), and Hartner/Schneider (2015), my survey attempts to provide an impression of the wealth of creative thinking currently at work in CLS. In this context, the paper discusses some of the major challenges cognitive approaches are facing today; it traces a selection of current developments in the field, including work on the concept of ›cultural models‹, the notion of the ›intercultural mind‹, and the attempt to programmatically ground conceptualizations of cognition in our bodily interactions with culture and the environment.

All in all, I argue that despite the efforts towards a systematic cognitive investigation of culture sketched in this survey, the project of cognitive cultural studies in general is still in its infancy. Its work is conducted by a comparatively small group of enthusiasts and constitutes a highly-specialized academic niche within a multitude of postclassical approaches to literature. Whether it will be possible to interest the much larger body of ›traditional‹ literary and cultural scholars in cognitive approaches, in my opinion, will to no small degree hinge on the field’s ability to move beyond abstract theoretical reflection. While there is obviously nothing intrinsically wrong with specialized fields of research beyond the mainstream, I believe that cognitive approaches have the potential to reach a wider audience. However, this may depend on the ability of CLS to develop concepts and methods capable of analysing concrete cultural phenomena in their social and historical context.


Abbott, H. Porter, Cognitive Literary Studies. The ›Second Generation‹ [Review of Ellen Spolsky’s The Work of Fiction], Poetics Today 27:4 (2006), 711–722.10.1215/03335372-2006-009Search in Google Scholar

Adler, Hans/Sabine Gross, Adjusting the Frame. Comments on Cognitivism and Literature, Poetics Today 23:2 (2002), 195–220.10.1215/03335372-23-2-195Search in Google Scholar

Aldama, Frederick L., Introduction. The Sciences and the Humanities Matter as One, in: F.L.A. (ed.), Toward a Cognitive Theory of Narrative Acts, Austin 2010, 1–9.10.7560/721579-001Search in Google Scholar

Bal, Mieke, Travelling Concepts in the Humanities. A Rough Guide, Toronto et al. 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Barsalou, Lawrence W. et al., Social Embodiment, Psychology of Learning and Motivation 43 (2003), 43–92.10.1016/S0079-7421(03)01011-9Search in Google Scholar

Bernaerts et al. (eds.), Stories and Minds. Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative, Lincoln et al. 2013.10.2307/j.ctt1ddr7zhSearch in Google Scholar

Bortolussi, Marisa/Peter Dixon, Minding the Text. Memory for Literary Narrative, in: Lars Bernaerts et al. (eds.), Stories and Minds. Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative, Lincoln et al. 2013, 23–37.10.2307/j.ctt1ddr7zh.5Search in Google Scholar

Burke, Michael, Literary Reading, Cognition and Emotion. An Exploration of the Oceanic Mind, New York et al. 2011.10.4324/9780203840306Search in Google Scholar

Burke, Michael/Emily T. Troscianko, Science and Literary Criticism, (22.06.2017).Search in Google Scholar

Burke, Michael/Emily T. Troscianko (eds.), Cognitive Literary Science. Dialogues between Literature and Cognition, Oxford 2016.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190496869.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Caracciolo, Marco, Interpretation for the Bodies. Bridging the Gap, Style 48:3 (2014), 385–403.10.5325/style.48.4.637Search in Google Scholar

Caracciolo, Marco, Cognitive Literary Studies and the Status of Interpretation. An Attempt at Conceptual Mapping, New Literary History 47:1 (2016), 187–207.10.1353/nlh.2016.0003Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Andy, Being There. Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again, Cambridge 1997.10.7551/mitpress/1552.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Clark, Billy, Salient Inferences. Pragmatics and The Inheritors, Language and Literature. Journal of the Poetics and Linguistics Association 18:2 (2009), 173–212.10.1177/0963947009105343Search in Google Scholar

Dannenberg, Hilary, Fleshing Out the Blend. The Representation of Counterfactuals in Alternate History in Print, Film, and Television Narratives, in: Ralf Schneider/Marcus Hartner (eds.), Blending and the Study of Narrative. Approaches and Applications, Berlin et al. 2012, 121–145.10.1515/9783110291230.121Search in Google Scholar

Evans, Vyvyan/Melanie Green, Cognitive Linguistics. An Introduction, Edinburgh 2006.Search in Google Scholar

Faist, Thomas, The Border-Crossing Expansion of Social Space. Concepts, Questions, and Topics, in: Thomas Faist/Eyüp Özveren (eds.), Transnational Social Spaces. Agents, Networks, and Institutions, Aldershot 2004, 1–34.Search in Google Scholar

Faist, Thomas, The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces [2000], Oxford et al. 2008.Search in Google Scholar

Fauconnier, Gilles/Mark Turner, The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities, New York 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Fludernik, Monika, Afterword, Style 48:3 (2014), 404–410.10.5325/style.48.4.461Search in Google Scholar

Hart, F. Elizabeth, The Epistemology of Cognitive Literary Studies, Philosophy and Literature 25:2 (2001), 314–334.10.1353/phl.2001.0031Search in Google Scholar

Hartner, Marcus, Perspektivische Interaktion im Roman. Kognition, Rezeption, Interpretation, Berlin et al. 2012.10.1515/9783110290073Search in Google Scholar

Hartner, Marcus, Scientific Concepts in Literary Studies. Towards Criteria for the Meeting of Literature and Cognitive Science, in: Michael Burke/Emily T. Troscianko (eds.), Cognitive Literary Science. Dialogues between Literature and Cognition, Oxford 2016, 17–34.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190496869.003.0002Search in Google Scholar

Hartner, Marcus/Ralf Schneider, British Novels of Migration and the Construction of Transnational Social Spaces, Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 63:4 (2015), 411–431.10.1515/zaa-2015-0034Search in Google Scholar

Herman, David, Story Logic. Problems and Possibilities of Narrative, Lincoln et al. 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Herman, David (ed.), Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences, Stanford 2003.Search in Google Scholar

Herman, David, Narrative Theory after the Second Cognitive Revolution, in: Lisa Zunshine (ed.), Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies, Baltimore 2010, 155–175.Search in Google Scholar

Herman, David, Narrative Worldmaking across Media and Disciplines, American Council of Learned Societies (2011), (22.06.2017).Search in Google Scholar

Hogan, Patrick, Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts, London/New York 2003 (Hogan 2003a).Search in Google Scholar

Hogan, Patrick, The Mind and Its Stories. Narrative Universals and Human Emotion, Cambridge et al. 2003 (Hogan 2003b).10.1017/CBO9780511499951Search in Google Scholar

Holland, Dorothy/Naomi Quinn (eds.), Cultural Models in Language and Thought, Cambridge 1987.10.1017/CBO9780511607660Search in Google Scholar

Jackson, Tony E., Questioning Interdisciplinarity. Cognitive Science, Evolutionary Psychology, and Literary Criticism, Poetics Today 21:2 (2000), 319–347.10.1215/03335372-21-2-319Search in Google Scholar

Jackson, Tony E., Why the Novel Happened. A Cognitive Explanation, Philosophy and Literature 38 (2014), A75–A93.10.1353/phl.2014.0025Search in Google Scholar

Jaén, Isabel/Julien J. Simon (eds.), Cognitive Literary Studies. Current Themes and New Directions, Austin 2012.Search in Google Scholar

Johnson, Mark, The Body in the Mind. The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason, Chicago 1987.10.7208/chicago/9780226177847.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Jones, Edward G./Lorne M. Mendell, Assessing the Decade of the Brain, Science 284:5414 (1999), 739.10.1126/science.284.5415.739Search in Google Scholar

Keen, Suzanne, Empathy and the Novel, Oxford 2007.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175769.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Kramnick, Jonathan, Against Literary Darwinism, Critical Inquiry 37:2 (2011), 315–347.10.1086/657295Search in Google Scholar

Krois, Michael et al., Introduction, in: M.K. et al. (eds.), Embodiment in Cognition and Culture, Amsterdam 2007, xiii–xxii.10.1075/aicr.71Search in Google Scholar

Kukkonen, Karin, Presence and Prediction. The Embodied Reader’s Cascades of Cognition, Style 48:3 (2014), 367–384.Search in Google Scholar

Kukkonen, Karin/Marco Caracciolo, Introduction. What is the ›Second Generation‹, Style 48:3 (2014), 261–274.10.5325/style.48.4.637Search in Google Scholar

Kuzmičová, Anežka, Literary Narrative and Mental Imagery. A View from Embodied Cognition, Style 48:3 (2014), 275–293.Search in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George/Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, Chicago et al. 1980.Search in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George/Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, New York 1999.Search in Google Scholar

McConachie, Bruce, Towards a Cognitive Cultural Hegemony, in: Lisa Zunshine (ed.), Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies, Baltimore 2010, 134–153.Search in Google Scholar

Meier, Brian P. et al., Embodiment in Social Psychology, Topics in Cognitive Science 4:4 (2012), 705–716.10.1111/j.1756-8765.2012.01212.xSearch in Google Scholar

Menary, Richard, Introduction to the Special Issue on 4E Cognition, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 9 (2010), 459–463.10.1007/s11097-010-9187-6Search in Google Scholar

Nünning, Vera, Reading Fictions, Changing Minds. The Cognitive Value of Fiction, Heidelberg 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Nünning, Vera/Ansgar Nünning/Birgit Neumann (eds.), Cultural Ways of Worldmaking. Media and Narratives, Berlin et al. 2010.10.1515/9783110227567Search in Google Scholar

Palmer, Alan, Fictional Minds, Lincoln et al. 2004.Search in Google Scholar

Richardson, Alan, Studies in Literature and Cognition. A Field Map, in: A.R./Ellen Spolsky (eds.), The Work of Fiction. Cognition, Culture, and Complexity, Aldershot 2004, 1–29.Search in Google Scholar

Ryan, Marie-Laure, Narratology and Cognitive Science. A Problematic Relation, Style 44:4 (2010), 469–495.Search in Google Scholar

Saravese, John/Colin Jager, Cognition, Culture, Romanticism. A Review Essay, Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net 57–58 (2010), (22.6.2017).Search in Google Scholar

Schneider, Ralf, The Cognitive Theory of Character Reception. An Updated Proposal, Anglistik 24:2 (2013), 117–134.Search in Google Scholar

Sheenan, Paul, Continental Drift. The Clash Between Literary Studies and Cognitive Literary Studies, in: Chris Danta/Helen Groth (eds.), Mindful Aesthetics. Literature and the Science of Mind, New York et al. 2014, 47–58.10.5040/ in Google Scholar

Shore, Brad, Culture in Mind. Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning, New York et al. 1996.Search in Google Scholar

Simerka, Barbara, Knowing Subjects. Cognitive Cultural Studies and Early Modern Spanish Literature, West Lafayette 2013.10.2307/j.ctt6wq76kSearch in Google Scholar

Slingerland, Edward, What Science Offers the Humanities. Integrating Body and Culture, Cambridge et al. 2008.10.1017/CBO9780511841163Search in Google Scholar

Snow, Charles P., The Two Cultures and a Second Look. An Expanded Version of the Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, Cambridge 1965.Search in Google Scholar

Sommer, Roy, ›Contextualism‹ Revisited. A Survey (and Defence) of Postcolonial and Intercultural Narratologies, Journal of Literary Theory 1:1 (2007), 61–79.10.1515/JLT.2007.005Search in Google Scholar

Sommer, Roy, Other Stories, Other Minds. The Intercultural Potential of Cognitive Approaches to Narrative, in: Lars Bernaerts et al. (eds.), Stories and Minds. Cognitive Approaches to Literary Narrative, Lincoln et al. 2013, 155–174.10.2307/j.ctt1ddr7zh.11Search in Google Scholar

Spolsky, Ellen, Gaps in Nature. Literary Interpretation and the Modular Mind, Albany 1993.Search in Google Scholar

Spolsky, Ellen, Preface, in: Alan Richardson/E.S. (eds.), The Work of Fiction. Cognition, Culture, and Complexity, Aldershot et al. 2004, vii–xiii.Search in Google Scholar

Stockwell, Peter, Cognitive Poetics. An Introduction, London et al. 2002.Search in Google Scholar

Strasen, Sven, Cultural Models, Cognitive Environment and the Reading of Literary Texts. Towards a Cognitive Reinvigoration of Reader-Response Theory, in: Klaus Stierstorfer (ed.), Anglistentag Münster 2007. Proceedings, Trier 2008, 199–207.Search in Google Scholar

Strasen, Sven, The Return of the Reader. The Disappearance of Literary Reception Theories and their Revival as a Part of a Cognitive Theory of Culture, Anglistik 24:2 (2013), 31–48.Search in Google Scholar

Strauss, Claudia/Naomi Quinn, A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning, Cambridge 1997.10.1017/CBO9781139167000Search in Google Scholar

Sutton, John, Memory and the Extended Mind. Embodiment, Cognition, and Culture, Cognitive Processing 6:4 (2005), 223–226.10.1007/s10339-005-0022-xSearch in Google Scholar

Turner, Mark, Reading Minds. The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science, Princeton 1991.10.1515/9780691227788Search in Google Scholar

Turner, Mark, The Literary Mind, New York/Oxford 1996.Search in Google Scholar

Valera, Francisco/Evan Thompson/Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind. Cognitive Science and Human Experience, Cambridge 1991.Search in Google Scholar

Vygotsky, Lev S., Dynamics and Structure of the Adolescent’s Personality [1930–1931], in: L.S.V., The Essential Vygotsky, ed. by Robert W. Rieber, New York 2004, 471–490.10.1007/978-0-387-30600-1_15Search in Google Scholar

Zunshine, Lisa, Why We Read Fiction. Theory of Mind and the Novel, Columbus 2006.Search in Google Scholar

Zunshine, Lisa (ed.), Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies, Baltimore 2010.10.1353/book.500Search in Google Scholar

Zunshine, Lisa (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies, Oxford et al. 2015.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199978069.013.0001Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2017-8-31
Published in Print: 2017-8-1

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 27.9.2023 from
Scroll to top button