Extending Literary Theory and the Psychoanalytic Tradition

  • Miranda Anderson
Part of the New Directions in Philosophy and Cognitive Science book series (NDPCS)


The extended mind hypothesis by its very title assures us that it does not restrict itself to conventional or limited notions of the mind, but incorporates into its focus the subject and the world. For this reason, it is worth considering how EM might interact with theories concerned with the nature of the mind that have more commonly been employed in literary readings. This second chapter is again theoretically motivated, as it sets out to establish the relation of EM to literary studies, in order to suggest a basis for the use of this theory for reading literature, despite resistance in the field of literary studies to making use of scientific knowledge. The primary focus here is on the various intersections of EM related research with the psychoanalytical theories that to a lesser extent influence the reading of texts in this work. Paul Cefalu also recently argued that readings of literature can benefit from both cognitive and psychoanalytic insights, although the grounds for this he places on a distinction between the cognitive ‘as better equipped phyolgenetically to explain how characters think’ and the psychoanalytic as ‘better equipped ontogentically to explain why’, but given the range of work in both areas this is a false dichotomy (267). While EM and 4E approaches tend to optimism about human nature and cognitive extendedness, psychoanalytical theories provide a critical perspective on notions of extendedness, uncovering the dark side of this aspect of human nature: they are commonly concerned with human decentring by the unconscious or by language, and they provide various critical modes of understanding the formation of the subject, sexual identity and social relationships.


Literary Study Literary Theory Literary Reading Symbolic Order Cognitive Extendedness 
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Copyright information

© Miranda Anderson 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miranda Anderson
    • 1
  1. 1.University of EdinburghUK

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