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Narrative Embodiments: Embodied Cognition in the Post 1945 American Novel
AuthorSchneeberger, Aaron Francis
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Drawing on ideas from the increasingly influential field of embodied cognition (including work from neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers of the mind) and formalist theories of the novel, specifically those of Marxist literary critics like Fredric Jameson, my dissertation, “Narrative Embodiments: Embodied Cognition in Post 1945 American Fiction,” argues that embodied theories of the mind provide a compelling tool for innovatively reconsidering how works of mid to late 20th century fiction represent characters and complex social milieus. In bridging these two sets of scholarly conversations, this project differs from most recent criticism applying neuroscientific ideas to literature, which usually avoids extensively engaging with established conversations in literary theory. To this end, my dissertation analyzes representations of embodiment in an eclectic group of American novels: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Don DeLillo’s Ratner’s Star, E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. My analysis emphasizes the ways these novels present a variety of distinct representations of embodiment that range from presenting the body as an object directed by human thought to those which present the body as the source of characters’ intentions and actions. I also assess the tendency of these texts to not only juxtapose but also imbricate such representations of embodiment as a response to the difficulties of fictional mimesis posed by what is often referred to as postmodern culture.