Cognitive Criticism: Mark Turner's Approach
Revised November 1996
Mark Turner's Reading Minds (1991) sets out the project of "the study of English in the age of Cognitive Science" in an admirable way. "The coming age", he begins, "will be known and remembered, I believe, as the age in which the human mind was discovered". To someone not familiar with the work of cognitive science, this no doubt sounds like a fantastical claim--the human mind, after all, was investigated by Socrates, the Buddha, Confucius, and every philosopher you care to name. While cognitive science cannot, in my view, pretend in any sense to supplant the work on the mind done by human beings through the centuries, it does in fact provide tools that earlier generations did not possess. These tools combine a vast amount of theoretical and practical knowledge relating to computational systems, evolutionary mechnisms, neurology and physiology, and our ancestral environment (see Evolutionary Psychology: An Integrative Approach). While these tools cannot claim to provide a complete and exhaustive description (see my stance on epistemology), they are extremely powerful in revealing aspects of human cognition that have so far remained unknown or unintelligible.

Turner seeks to ground the study of literature in the study of language. "I offer explanations in this book", he writes,

Turner's proposal is that we "investigate the common conceptual and linguistic apparatus readers bring to texts".
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© 1996 Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California, Los Angeles