Main Forum, First speaker: Mark Turner
Literature and the Cognitive Revolution
Main Forum, Third speaker: Patrick Colm Hogan
 

Ellen Spolsky
Professor of English, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
 
Second Speaker, Main Forum Session
 

Abstract

Cognitive Universals and Historical Change

The architecture of the mind/brain, specifically the gaps caused by its modularity, makes it interestingly unstable.  It is this very instability, however that builds in the possibility of creativity.  The job of the modular processes is to produce representations which are not entirely overlapping.  The derived interpretation, then is the outcome of a negotiation aimed at achieving a kind of satisfaction.  Because any representation will always be a compromise, it will always be unstable, teetering between obsolescence and novelty. (Witness the way one sees the Necker cube in two competing ways.)
 
How, then, does the interpreting mind/brain react in the event of historical/ cultural change?  Evolutionary biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists focus their study on how the brain, like any other organism, adapts to a changed environment.  But our cultural theory and our literary texts demand that we investigate the reverse process as well.  Our special contribution is to study historical examples of the mind/brain as more than a passive reactor or adapter.  We need to develop more fully a cognitive description of the mindís productivity - its interpretive creativity - and how it effects changes in the external culture.
 
Ellen Spolsky
Bar-Ilan University
 

Ellen Spolsky's home page

 

 

Main Forum, First speaker: Mark Turner
Literature and the Cognitive Revolution
Main Forum, Third speaker: Patrick Colm Hogan