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Journal of Literary Semantics

An International Review

Founded by Eaton, Trevor

Ed. by Toolan, Michael

2 Issues per year

CiteScore 2017: 0.38

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.122
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.575

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Volume 42, Issue 2


Parallel processing and the human mind: Re-understanding consciousness with James Joyce's Ulysses

Patrick Colm Hogan
Published Online: 2013-09-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2013-0007


Research on neural models for cognition suggests that thought is far from a simply serial process. Nonetheless, there has been relatively little work on which parameters govern just what aspects of thought are parallel and what are serial. Clearly, speech as such is serial. In consequence, interior monologue (understood as subvocalised speech) is serial. Moreover, stream of consciousness – mental experience not confined to subvocalised speech – must be articulated in serial form in a novel. Due to this constraint on representation, it seems that novelists commonly imagine that stream of consciousness itself really is serial. Joyce, however, developed a sense of parallel cognitive processing in the course of Ulysses. Specifically, in the “Wandering Rocks” episode, he explored spatiotemporally parallel events in complex social systems. In the following chapter, “Sirens,” he in effect transferred this treatment of external parallelism to the human mind, systematically developing cognitive parallelism in his representation of Leopold Bloom. This development was perhaps reinforced by ideas of harmony and counterpoint associated with the episode's musical model. Understanding Joyce's exploration of parallel and serial processes in thought is important not only for what it tells us about Ulysses. It is also important for what it contributes to our understanding of cognitive parallelism.

Keywords: Cognition and literature; Interior monologue; James Joyce; Parallel processing; Serial processing; Stream of consciousness; Ulysses

About the article

Patrick Colm Hogan

Patrick Colm Hogan is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut, where he is also on the faculties of the programs in Cognitive Science, India Studies, and Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies. He is the author of sixteen books, including What Literature Teaches Us About Emotion (Cambridge University Press, 2011), How Authors' Minds Make Stories (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Ulysses and the Poetics of Cognition (Routledge, 2013). He was also the editor of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences (2011).

Published Online: 2013-09-17

Published in Print: 2013-09-17

Citation Information: Journal of Literary Semantics, Volume 42, Issue 2, Pages 149–164, ISSN (Online) 1613-3838, ISSN (Print) 0341-7638, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jls-2013-0007.

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