China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel centers on “cognitive approaches to literature,” a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field that brings together literary studies with cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Cognitive approaches to Chinese literature and culture is a thriving area within this larger field; for instance, the recent MLAs in Chicago and New York featured dedicated sessions on cognition and Chinese studies, while the Chinese Association of Cognitive Poetics has been sponsoring national and international conferences since 2008. (The first international conference took place in Chongqing in 2013; others include Guangzhou in 2015, Beijing in 2017, and Harbin in 2020.)
The present panel is organized around such issues as the early historical development of the concepts of mind and mind-body dualism; representation of mental functioning in literary texts; and, finally, submerged structures of fictional subjectivity in their cultural contexts. Our goal is to put these strains of inquiry in conversation with each other. While the speakers are excited about new readings of classical texts made possible by cognitive literary theory, the larger questions that this session intends to address go beyond such immediate interpretive payoffs. Those questions have to do with the sociality of literature and with the historicity of claims originating in cognitive science, as well as with stakes and definitions of interdisciplinarity. Hence, dealing with a broad range of genres—from philosophical treatises and musical drama to classical poetry and the novel— the participants are committed to developing nodal points at which the historical and the cognitive meet and push against each other.