Date of Degree

2-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Peter Hitchcock

Advisor

Peter Hitchcock

Committee Members

Peter Hitchcock

Nico Israel

Jason Tougaw

Alan Vardy

Subject Categories

Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Comparative Literature | Ethics and Political Philosophy | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America | Philosophy of Mind

Keywords

cognitive cultural studies; wandering minds; against narrativity; memory studies; Walter Benjamin

Abstract

This study offers a theory of wandering cognition as an animating feature of western literature, in general, and of contemporary literature, in particular. Unlike existing theories of peripatetic bodies and minds in fiction that focus primarily on political critiques, cultural practices, or pleasures of digression, this theory of wandering offers an aesthetic philosophy and ethical critique of representing cognition, memory, and narrative identity that finds affinities in the political, phenomenological, and ethical thought of Walter Benjamin, Emmanuel Levinas, and Giorgio Agamben.

Unlike existing cognitive theories of literature that apply cognitive theory to literary study (or vice versa), this study develops an aesthetic and phenomenological theory of consciousness that emerges from within the representation of perception, attentiveness, and memory in literatures of wandering minds. Wandering generates narrative identity apart from conventional and normative narrativity, a narrative consciousness that accounts for the cognitive motion (and blindspots) in remembering selves and that illuminates cognitive mimeses of amnesic, episodic, and disabled consciousness.

Finally, while this study focuses primarily on the contemporary literary experiments of wandering in the works of Kazuo Ishiguro, W.G. Sebald, Ben Lerner, and Maud Casey, it has a wider reach in its retrospective and prospective rethinking of the function of peripatetic fiction. Wandering is built into the narrative motion and aesthetic technique of narrated and remembering identities in the early Romantic autobiography of Rousseau, Wordsworth, and De Quincey; and wandering underlies the conscious identities narrated absent memory in the emerging genre of the amnesic memoir.

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