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Literature and Cognition

Jerry R. Hobbs

Cognitive science, with its guiding metaphor of the mind as computer, has made substantial progress toward and understanding of how people comprehend and produce discourse. The essays in this book apply these insights to problems in the interpretation of literature. The first two chapters present the outline of cognitive theory of discourse and use it to shed light on some classic issues in literary theory, including the roles of the author's intention and the reader's belief systems in the meaning of a literary work. The nest two chapters are more technical investigations of discourse coherence and metaphor. Then, the framework developed is used in the examination of two literary works, a sonnet by Milton and Gerard de Nerval's novella, "Sylvie." The final chapter draws parallels between conversation and literary discourse in an effort to understand the aesthetics of each.

Jerry R. Hobbs is senior computer scientist at SRI International.


  • Introduction
  • 1 Against Confusion
  • 2 Imagining, Fiction, and Narrative
  • 3 A Theory of Descourse Interpretation
  • 4 Interpreting Metaphors
  • 5 The Coherence and Structure of Discourse
  • 6 “Lawrence of virtuous father virtuous son”: A Coherence Analysis
  • 7 Structuring in Nerval's Sylvie
  • Afterword
  • Bibliography


ISBN (Paperback): 9780937073520 (9780937073520)
ISBN (Cloth): 9780937073537 (9780937073537)
Subject: Cognitive Science; Discourse Analysis; Literature--Psychology

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