Friday, September 4, 2015

On the Poverty of Cognitive Criticism and the Importance of Computation and Form

I've gathered my posts on poverty of cognitive criticism into a single working paper (title above). Download here:

Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/15395772/On_the_Poverty_of_Cognitive_Criticism_and_the_Importance_of_Computation_and_Form
Social Science Research Network: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2656245

Abstract, table of contents, and introduction below.

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Abstract: While literary criticism based on cognitive, evolutionary, and neuropsychology has been relatively successful in addressing a wide variety of issues in theory, poetics, and narratology, it has been less successful in accounting for individual literary texts (practical criticism). Moreover it has been unsuccessful in identifying issues where practitioners of those psychological disciplines can benefit from literary criticism. As long as literary criticism remains grounded in discursive thought, where the primary thinking is captured by the prose on the page, it will not be of much value to disciplines where much of the critical thinking takes place in the forms of experimental design, execution, and data analysis, mathematical and formal models, and computer simulation. Furthermore, these newest forms of literary criticism have neglected computation as a model for mental processes, yet that is what precipitated the cognitive revolution. Properly understood, a computational view allows us to treat literary form as the trace of a computational process. It thus follows that literary critics should be producing detailed analytic descriptions of literary texts. Finally, the subjective activity of interpretation should be recognized as a separate intellectual activity and should reincorporate the normative activity (criticism proper) that it has put at arm’s length.
Contents

Introduction: Theory and Practice in a Broken World 2
Alan Richardson Makes a Case 9
What I Learned When I Walked off the Cliff of Cognitivism 14
The key to the treasure IS the (form of the) treasure 25
The ‘Middle Way’, What It Can and Cannot Do 41
It’s Time to Leave the Sandbox 51
Appendix 1: The Disciplines of Literary Criticism 58
Appendix 2: Cog Sci and Lit Theory, a Brief Chronology 61
Appendix 3: A Graduate Syllabus in Naturalist Literary Criticism 66
Consolidated References 70

Introduction, Theory and Practice in a Broken World

In his Preface to Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science (1991) Mark Turner declared that the age of cognitive science would put literature at the center of the study of the mind [1]. Over two decades later that future has not yet become the present. Just this year Alan Richardson has written an essay-review of two new books in cognitive literary studies, “Once upon a Mind: Literary and Narrative Studies in the Age of Cognitive Science” [2], in which he laments that the authors of those books, while calling for students of cognition and the brain to adopt methods from literary studies, have themselves failed to make a compelling case for a line of inquiry where investigators of the cognitive sciences places methods and evidence from literary studies on par with their own methods and evidence (see my first post, Alan Richardson Makes a Case).

What we have here is a failure of interdisciplinary reciprocity. The traffic between literary studies and the cognitive sciences is still pretty much one-way. It is that failure that prompted me to start drafting what I thought would be a single longish – 1500 to 3000 words – post.

But it didn’t work out that way. It just grew and grew, so I broke it in two and published the first piece. And the second grew and grew, and I ended up with five long-form posts. Now it’s time to call a halt to this project and move on to the next.

Friday Fotos: Yesterday's Catch, Hoboken Sunrise

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Maybe life's not a narrative

Nevertheless, it does seem that there are some deeply Narrative types among us, where to be Narrative with a capital ‘N’ is (here I offer a definition) to be naturally disposed to experience or conceive of one’s life, one’s existence in time, oneself, in a narrative way, as having the form of a story, or perhaps a collection of stories, and – in some manner – to live in and through this conception. The popularity of the narrativist view is prima facie evidence that there are such people.

Perhaps. But many of us aren’t Narrative in this sense. We’re naturally – deeply – non-Narrative. We’re anti-Narrative by fundamental constitution. It’s not just that the deliverances of memory are, for us, hopelessly piecemeal and disordered, even when we’re trying to remember a temporally extended sequence of events. The point is more general. It concerns all parts of life, life’s ‘great shambles’, in the American novelist Henry James’s expression. This seems a much better characterisation of the large-scale structure of human existence as we find it. Life simply never assumes a story-like shape for us. And neither, from a moral point of view, should it.

The tendency to attribute control to self is, as the American social psychologist Dan Wegner says, a personality trait, possessed by some and not others. There’s an experimentally well-attested distinction between human beings who have what he calls the ‘emotion of authorship’ with respect to their thoughts, and those who, like myself, have no such emotion, and feel that their thoughts are things that just happen. This could track the distinction between those who experience themselves as self-constituting and those who don’t but, whether it does or not, the experience of self-constituting self-authorship seems real enough. When it comes to the actual existence of self-authorship, however – the reality of some process of self-determination in or through life as life-writing – I’m skeptical.
Me too. And Montaigne:
More generally, and putting aside pathological memory loss, I’m in the camp with the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, when it comes to specifically autobiographical memory: ‘I can find hardly a trace of [memory] in myself,’ he writes in his essay ‘Of Liars’ (1580). ‘I doubt if there is any other memory in the world as grotesquely faulty as mine is!’ Montaigne knows this can lead to misunderstanding. He is, for example, ‘better at friendship than at anything else, yet the very words used to acknowledge that I have this affliction [poor memory] are taken to signify ingratitude; they judge my affection by my memory’ – quite wrongly. ‘However, I derive comfort from my infirmity.’

Poor memory protects him from a disagreeable form of ambition, stops him babbling, and forces him to think through things for himself because he can’t remember what others have said. Another advantage, he says, ‘is that... I remember less any insults received’.
H/t 3QD.

Singapore: The Future of Language?

Rather than being pure denizens of one linguistic world, Singaporeans reside, occasionally uncomfortably, in two. As a native English speaker who lives in China and speaks Chinese at home, being uncomfortably poised between two languages is pretty much the story of my life. So that’s why I find Singapore strangely comfortable–because I’m suddenly surrounded by many more people who are in my situation.

And if we think that the world of the future will be largely dominated by the superpowers of America and China, which seems to be the way things have been heading lately, then this kind of English-Chinese bilingualism could become much, much more common. This was one of the fun aspects of the future imagined in the wonderful science-fiction TV show Firefly, in which the characters occasionally tossed snippets of Chinese (without subtitles or explanation) into otherwise normal English dialogue.
Except, alas, the actors' Chinese pronunciation sucked.

On the Poverty of Literary Cognitivism, Extra: A Graduate Syllabus in Naturalist Literary Criticism

I'd originally posted this at The Valve in July of 2007 under a the title: The Autonomous Aesthetic: A Graduate Syllabus in Literary Theory. I’m reposting it here to give you some idea of what I’d teach in a graduate course on what I’ve come to call naturalist literary theory. If I were to redo this from scratch I might make some changes, but I’d strive to keep the same balance of materials.

Notice that, while I’ve been hard on the literary cognitivists and evolutionists in this series of posts, I’ve included books by David Herman, Brian Boyd, and Reuven Tsur. Finally, if this post at all interests you, I urge you to go over to The Valve (link above) and read the discussion we had there. It's quite good.
John Holbo's recent post on Mark Bauerlein's proposed antidote for leftist politics in the Theory curriculum got me thinking about the question of how, given a free hand, I'd teach literary theory. In the spirit of a thought experiment I've put together a syllabus for a graduate course in literary theory, that is, the theory of literature.

On the one hand, I want to demonstrate that one could teach a course in literary theory that pretty much avoids High Theory and yet is intellectually contemporary rather than an exercise in nostalgia. If I myself have pursued these ideas, however, it has not been out of any desire to avoid Theory as though it were a disease (and, of course, it is very proud of the fact that it is grounded in dis-ease) but simply because these are the ideas that have interested me. They are compelling on their own terms and not simply as an alternative to something else.

As a way of setting an overall objective for such a course, a pole star if you will, I offer a passage from a very political High Theorist, the late Edward Said. This passage is from one of his last essays, “Globalizing Literary Study,” published in 2001 in PMLA. He says:
I myself have no doubt, for instance, that an autonomous aesthetic realm exists, yet how it exists in relation to history, politics, social structures, and the like, is really difficult to specify. Questions and doubts about all these other relations have eroded the formerly perdurable national and aesthetic frameworks, limits, and boundaries almost completely. The notion neither of author, nor of work, nor of nation is as dependable as it once was, and for that matter the role of imagination, which used to be a central one, along with that of identity has undergone a Copernical transformation in the common understanding of it.
I too believe that “an autonomous aesthetic realm exists,” and that one can conceptualize it without having to ignore either the human mind, nor society, nor their joint interaction through and embedding in history. The objective of this course in literary theory, then, is to begin understanding how literature partakes of this aesthetic autonomy while being embedded in the contingencies of history.

First I list the proposed texts, in the order that I would use them, and then I explain why.
David Herman. Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative. University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Claude Lévi-Strauss. “The Story of Asdiwal,” in Structural Anthropology II. Basic Books, 1976, pp. 146-197.

Reuven Tsur. Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics. North-Holland, 1992.

William Benzon. Beethoven's Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture. Basic Books, 2001.
Brian Boyd. On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, Harvard 2009.  My review is HERE.
Dan Sperber. Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach. Blackwell, 1996.

Franco Moretti. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. Verso, 2005.

Alistair Fowler. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes. Harvard University Press, 1982.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Notes on Narcos and Reality

I’ve been watching the new Netflix stream-a-thon, Narcos, about Pablo Escobar and the Medellín Cartel. In that it involves the cocaine trade it is like Breaking Bad. But they are utterly different. Breaking Bad is relatively small in scope, just a handful of bad guys and good guys, all closely knit, with the trade confined to one city in New Mexico. We’re dealing with relatively small amounts of cocaine, measured in pounds, and money, mere millions. Narcos is huge in scope, sprawling across several countries, hundreds and thousands of people (though of course the drama concentrates on a few), dealing in tons upon tons worth billions of dollars.

Breaking Bad is more tightly stretched and gripping–though I’m only five episodes in to Narcos. Walter White fights with himself at each step of his depraved way while the characters in Narcos accept what they have to do. Some may be reluctant here and there, but that’s more about caution than moral conflict. But that’s not what I’m interested in at the moment.

I’m interested in certain matters of presentational technique. Each episode of Narcos opens with a standard disclaimer in white on a black screen:

This television series is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatization purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.

That is, we’re going to see a mixture of fact and fiction. We know that Escobar and the cartel are or were real. Unless you followed the story very closely, of have read up on it, you probably don’t know much more about it than that. You’re not going to know just what characters in the story are real and which are fictionalized, and so on down the line. And even where the characters are real, many of the conversations and incidents will necessarily be fictions.

Just what and how does any of that matter? That’s a tricky question, one that’s as old as Plato, and I don’t want to even attempt an answer. I just note that it’s on the table. And, of course, it would be on the table even if it were ALL made up, because that’s the way it is trying to extract truth from fiction.

What’s interesting about Narcos is that such questions are up there on the screen all the time. The show makes extensive use of documentary footage and still photos or real people and events. We will see something happen in the fictionalized drama, and then see news footage of the same events shot from the same vantage point. We’ll see still photos and newspaper headlines montaged into the visual flow.

There’s nothing mysterious or confusing about any of this. There’s no attempt to fool us. Rather, it is assumed that we can read the signs and made sense of it all, sorting documentary sources from fiction in real time. It’s not as though anything is being thereby put into question, but rather the possibility of questioning is always there. They know reality is a construct, we know it to. What we see is the construction.

The other thing that’s interesting is that many of the actors are Hispanic and speak Spanish on screen – as they characters they represent in fact did. And so we see their dialogue in subtitles at the bottom of the screen, just as if we were watching a foreign film in an art house cinema. But it’s not a foreign film. It’s American made with much of it shot in Columbia. It’s as though we are being made foreign to our own selves.

We are strangers in a strange land constructing reality in real time from a mixture of fictional enactments and documentary records.

Welcome of the 21st Century, the Information Age.

Goldenrod

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Monday, August 31, 2015

On the Poverty of Literary Cognitivism 5: It’s Time to Leave the Sandbox

Note, Sept 1, 2015: I've added three paragraphs about theory to and section, Characteristics of the Critical Sandbox.
* * * * * 
The child is father to the man.

– William Wordsworth


Despite the wide range of literary study that has taken place under the rubric of the newer psychologies – cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience – these initiatives remain impoverished by their instance on functioning as a form of hermeneutic literary study. Since World War II academic literary criticism has used literature as a vehicle for the investigation of the human condition as seen across half the departments of the modern university [1]. All the cognitivists and evolutionists are doing is inviting more disciplines to the party. But it really is the same old party, not the new ones the evolutionists, on the one hand, and the cognitivists, on the other, are proclaiming.

Text as Sandbox

After World War II all academic literary criticism, at least in the American academy, came to agree on one basic modus operandi: The literary text is a mental sandbox in which the critic plays with his or her favorite conceptual toys. The New Critics used the idea of form to isolate the text from external influences, authorial intention, reader affect, and history. Because their conceptual toys – the ideas of ambiguity and paradox coupled with humanism (secular or Christian) – were invisible as such, they could present this as an act of austere purification in which messy value judgments and textual entanglements could be left behind.

Once the New Critics had thus transformed the text into an intellectual testing ground, a sandbox, other critics brought in more obtrusive toys: psychoanalysis, phenomenology, Marxism, structuralism, deconstruction, feminism and the other isms, and now cognitive science and evolutionary psychology. The new historicists have been fighting a highly successful rear-guard action by bracketing all theory toys and privileging a somewhat different set of toys, non-literary texts roughly contemporaneous with the texts under examination. At various points along the way the new set of toys would be brought online through a rhetoric of revolution and renewal, but the basic procedure remained the same: declare the sandbox to be liberated, toss out the old toys and bring in the new. Same sandbox, new toys.

This modus operandi was underwritten by a tacit agreement that any reading of a text was legitimate as long as it was supported by a suitable rationale, of which there are now many kinds. This professional courtesy inevitably led not merely to a multiplicity of readings, but to divergent and contradictory readings. Some critics saw this as evidence of the richness of canonical literary texts while others saw it as evidence of epistemological and methodological inadequacy. The latter have argued their case from time to time, but have yet been able to inspire a discipline-wide austerity program that has narrowed the range of legitimate readings to one per text. They’ve had little choice but to agree to the same old unwritten tacit agreement: Let 10,000 flowers bloom.

Thus much of the practical criticism produced by these most recent revisionists reads like 1950s humanist criticism but with a different set of tropes, motifs, and themes. Thus, in a review of an anthology of Darwinist literary criticism [2] Steven Pinker offered this observation about Joseph Carroll’s analysis of Pride and Prejudice [pp. 166-167]:
Carroll dissects the novel with skill and verve, and will make many readers wish that they had had him as their college English prof. Nonetheless, one is left wondering how essential the evolutionary biology is to his insights. The mating criteria that obsess the Bennett women may reflect universal impulses, but the specifics of the novel depends on the way that these impulses were exaggerated and codified in their time and culture. Today, a depiction of a contemporary middle-class family that worried aloud about finding wealthy husbands for the daughters, and about their being disgraced by a daughter running off with the son of a steward, would elicit guffaws, not a flash of recognition. In Pride and Prejudice, to be sure, these worries are set in tension with other concerns, but a skeptic could say that the tension is between individual and cultural demands, not individual and evolutionary ones.
That certainly accords with my own impression of Carroll’s work, and that of others as well, such as Brian Boyd’s treat of Iliad and Horton Hears a Who in The Origin of Stories [3].

Eyes

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Signifiers, the Material Text, and the Digital Critic

Why do I find digital criticism so congenial? It’s true that I studied computational linguistics early in my year and developed a computational semantics model that I used in analyzing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129. Thus, I’m not computer phobic, but that’s just baseline stuff. And digital critics have little to no interest in the computer as a model for the (mind), which is what I was up to back then, and still am.

However, in computational linguistics you take language as signifiers and actually do stuff, with the “dumb” signifiers themselves. While I never actually programmed such models, I learned quite a bit about how the worked and became comfortable thinking about the ‘machinery’ required to computer over those mere signifieds.

It’s one thing to know that language involves phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. It’s another thing to see such systems worked out in detail and linked together into working software. When you’ve seen that the linguistic mind becomes REAL in a way that it otherwise isn’t.

Once the linguistic mind is REAL, then so is literary form, the shape of the text. For you see the shape, not simply as a physical shape, but a computational shape, the direct trace of mind. That’s what I see when I describe literary form in terms of the ‘dumb’ signifiers.

THAT’s where I meet digital critics. For they too work with the ‘dumb’ signifiers. That’s all their programs ‘know’ about, just the word tokens. Their programs can count them, compare then, sort them, group them, and so forth, all without knowing what any of them mean.

And so I can describe a text and be (provisionally) content with the description. I know there’s a mechanism behind it, and I want to understand that mechanism. But I’ve learned patience. I can wait for that understanding. The description is sufficient in the here and now. I know that the pattern captured in the description is significant because it was made by a mind.

The digital critic knows that they patterns they find in a corpus are significant because that corpus was created by thousands of people or more over decades or more. We have the direct creators, the writers, but we must also recognize the readers even if we know nothing directly about their actions. For it is their reading that ‘draws the texts’ from the writers over the decades. So a given corpus will reflect that.

What I have in common with digital critics is that I seek patterns in ‘dumb’ signifiers. Our methods are different and the patterns we discover are different. But we read them as traces of mind.

Other critics, I’ll call them ‘conventional’ critics somewhat tendentiously, other critics talk about signifiers, and the gap between signifiers and signifieds, but in the end they’re more interested in the gap than the signifiers.

When I argue that digital criticism is The Only Game in Town, that’s why. They’re the only group of critics committed to the signifier, to the text. They’re the only critics committed to a material understanding of literary phenomena. They may be skittish about computation-as-a-model of the (literary) mind, but in the long run that’s the only way they’re going to come to terms with the results they getting.

From last evening's shoot

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

On the Poverty of Literary Cognitivism 4: The ‘Middle Way’, What It Can and Cannot Do

Literature is not made out of consciousness, it’s made out of words.

– J. Hillis Miller


No scholar should find humiliating the task of description. This is, on the contrary, the highest and rarest achievement.
— Bruno Latour


What do I mean by the ‘middle way’ and why is the term in scare quotes? The second question is easy: because I’m not quite serious about it, a little serious, but not all the way serious. As for what that middle way is, it includes the various approaches to literary criticism Alan Richardson had in mind in the essay review that prompted these posts, plus those approaches that favor evolutionary psychology. So this middle way is a sprawling mess of literary criticism and not internally unified.

In what sense are they in the middle? What’s on either side of them? Well, to one side you have the ‘hard core’ cognitive science that I embraced early in my career and that I discussed in my second post, What I Learned When I Walked off the Cliff of Cognitivism, while the formal description that I discuss in my third post, The key to the treasure IS the (form of the) treasure, is on the other wide. These middle way criticisms have little or no interest in literary form nor are they interested in computational mechanism (some of them even explicitly disavow computation as belonging to “first wave” cognitive science). Thus they work in between the kinds of things that have absorbed my professional attention.

Whether or not this middle way can serve as a bridge from one to the other, well – that’s an interesting question. A bridge does need to be built, but it is not going to be built by thinkers who don’t recognize that either explicit models or formal description are important intellectual activities.

The creation of explicit computational models can only be done by people with the appropriate technical expertise. Those people can be found in various disciplines, but few of them are literary critics. Is there anything literary critics have to offer those thinkers? Yes, formal analyses of literary texts. And the middle way people, do they have anything to offer? Well, I suspect they might object to the question. But that, after all, is not so different from the issue that Richardson posed in his review: Is there anything cognitive critics have that the psychologists and neuroscientists need?

My position is that they need, they can make good use of, those formal analyses, though they don’t know yet know it – in part because they don’t know that such things exist and so haven’t had a chance to examine them. It’s not at all clear to me that they can make much use of middle way criticism, though, as always, I could be wrong. But that’s what this post is about: to explain these things.

In the first section I revisit the idea of computation and argue that the “embedded” cognition of the so-called “second cognitive revolution” presupposes and would be nothing without the computational ideas of the “first” cognitive revolution. Then I use the metaphor of a building (such as a cathedral) and its materials to indicate why current cognitive criticism will necessarily fall short of a robust understanding of literary phenomena. What’s the answer to that problem? You guessed it, the study of literary form, to which I return in the third section, where I also argue the literary form is a way to link up with a Latourian view of social process. In the final section I argue that we free literary interpretation from the pretense of objective knowledge so that it become an openly ethical criticism in the sense that Wayne Booth has advocated.

Computing and Embodiment

The cognitive critics believe that they’ve left computation behind, as we can see in a passage that Alan Richardson and Francis Steen wrote in response to an essay by Hans Adler and Sabine Gross (152):
As Adler and Gross (ibid.: 197) themselves note, in fact, a “more comprehensive notion of human cognition” has over the past decade or so largely displaced the narrower, more exclusively computational, and effectively disembodied notion that the term cognitivism now conveys for many cognitive theorists and researchers (Varela et al. 1991: 71). More recent theories of cognition instead seek to acknowledge the bodily instantiation (if not basis) of mind, the emotive aspects of cognitive activity, and the social embeddedness of cognitive development and functioning.
This, I believe, is a reference to a so-called “second cognitive revolution” and which is, I believe, a bit misleading. I’m particularly skeptical about the effect that phrase “effectively disembodied” has in conjunction with computation, though that conjunction certainly is out there and has been and is influential. It is also superficial.

I supposed that “effectively” allows them to discount computing while still acknowledging that, yes, computers are physical systems and computing is a physical process. Whatever it is that computers do it is thereby in that sense embodied. But there is more to computational mindset than the mere fact of computing. It is a very explicit way of thinking about how mind-like systems are organized and constructed. That explicitness, that sense of design and construction, is somewhere between weak and missing in much of this second-revolution thinking.

Let me say it again: Computation was at the heart of the co-called cognitive revolution. No computation, no cognitive revolution. It was computation that allowed cognitive science to displace behaviorist psychology from the center of the academy. It made the mind real in a way it hadn’t been before.

Once those ideas had settled in it became professional respectable to think about the mind without having explicit computational models. And so we have this “second cognitive revolution,” but if you look closely you’ll see that computation still hangs around in the corners. Those ICMs (idealized cognitive models) that the cognitive linguists are fond of, many of them are computational models. That is one kind of embodiment and without it nothing else matters.

Turn Turn Turn

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Neural structures involved in reading fiction to understand actions vs. minds

Nijhof AD, Willems RM (2015) Simulating Fiction: Individual Differences in Literature Comprehension Revealed with fMRI. PLoS ONE 10(2): e0116492. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116492

Abstract: When we read literary fiction, we are transported to fictional places, and we feel and think along with the characters. Despite the importance of narrative in adult life and during development, the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying fiction comprehension are unclear. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how individuals differently employ neural networks important for understanding others’ beliefs and intentions (mentalizing), and for sensori-motor simulation while listening to excerpts from literary novels. Localizer tasks were used to localize both the cortical motor network and the mentalizing network in participants after they listened to excerpts from literary novels. Results show that participants who had high activation in anterior medial prefrontal cortex (aMPFC; part of the mentalizing network) when listening to mentalizing content of literary fiction, had lower motor cortex activity when they listened to action-related content of the story, and vice versa. This qualifies how people differ in their engagement with fiction: some people are mostly drawn into a story by mentalizing about the thoughts and beliefs of others, whereas others engage in literature by simulating more concrete events such as actions. This study provides on-line neural evidence for the existence of qualitatively different styles of moving into literary worlds, and adds to a growing body of literature showing the potential to study narrative comprehension with neuroimaging methods.

Introduction

Narratives play an important role in human life, and it is more and more acknowledged that fiction is a powerful player in human development as well as in adulthood (e.g. [1,2,3]). Despite its importance, it is largely unknown what the brain networks are that support our unique ability to move into a fiction world. While it is uncontroversial that people are moved into fiction worlds [4,5], it is unclear how readers do this. People differ greatly in how they engage in fiction (e.g. [6,7–11]), but the neurocognitive mechanisms behind narrative engagement remain unclear (see [12] for related work on theatre). Here we use neuroimaging to investigate individual differences during the comprehension of literary fiction stories.

Friday Fotos: Crucifix Caravan

Madam Wayquay's museum for the preservation and restoration of spirits lost in space just got a shipment of religious items, including a variety of crucifixes. So I decided to photograph some at a low angle and then run some variations on the result.

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