Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of How Literature Plays with the Brain
Cover image of How Literature Plays with the Brain
Share this Title:

How Literature Plays with the Brain

The Neuroscience of Reading and Art

Paul B. Armstrong

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

An original interdisciplinary study positioned at the intersection of literary theory and neuroscience.

"Literature matters," says Paul B. Armstrong, "for what it reveals about human experience, and the very different perspective of neuroscience on how the brain works is part of that story." In How Literature Plays with the Brain, Armstrong examines the parallels between certain features of literary experience and functions of the brain. His central argument is that literature plays with the brain through experiences of harmony and dissonance which set in motion oppositions that are fundamental…

An original interdisciplinary study positioned at the intersection of literary theory and neuroscience.

"Literature matters," says Paul B. Armstrong, "for what it reveals about human experience, and the very different perspective of neuroscience on how the brain works is part of that story." In How Literature Plays with the Brain, Armstrong examines the parallels between certain features of literary experience and functions of the brain. His central argument is that literature plays with the brain through experiences of harmony and dissonance which set in motion oppositions that are fundamental to the neurobiology of mental functioning. These oppositions negotiate basic tensions in the operation of the brain between the drive for pattern, synthesis, and constancy and the need for flexibility, adaptability, and openness to change.

The challenge, Armstrong argues, is to account for the ability of readers to find incommensurable meanings in the same text, for example, or to take pleasure in art that is harmonious or dissonant, symmetrical or distorted, unified or discontinuous and disruptive.

How Literature Plays with the Brain is the first book to use the resources of neuroscience and phenomenology to analyze aesthetic experience. For the neuroscientific community, the study suggests that different areas of research—the neurobiology of vision and reading, the brain-body interactions underlying emotions—may be connected to a variety of aesthetic and literary phenomena. For critics and students of literature, the study engages fundamental questions within the humanities: What is aesthetic experience? What happens when we read a literary work? How does the interpretation of literature relate to other ways of knowing?

Jump to
Quick Add
How Literature Plays with the Brain

Paul B. Armstrong

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Cover image of Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?
Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?

Blakey Vermeule

$35.00
Quick Add
Why Do We Care about Literary Characters?

Blakey Vermeule

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies
Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies

edited by Lisa Zunshine

$40.00
Quick Add
Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies

edited by Lisa Zunshine

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of The Neural Sublime
The Neural Sublime

Alan Richardson

$40.00
Quick Add
The Neural Sublime

Alan Richardson

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation
A Biocultural Approach to Literary Theory and Interpretation

Nancy Easterlin

$70.00
Quick Add
Binding Type
Cover image of Getting Inside Your Head
Getting Inside Your Head

Lisa Zunshine

$35.00
Quick Add
Getting Inside Your Head

Lisa Zunshine

Publication Date
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

Armstrong’s book is a testament to the value of the arts and the humanities since their processes and productions generate ideas that are literally the physical (neurobiological) stuff of which we are made.

How Literature Plays with the Brain: The Neuroscience of Reading and Art is a highly informative and carefully argued book. We recommend a close reading of it.

Armstrong's book is a beautiful example of how humanities scholars can accomplish a conversation across the gap between the 'two cultures' without giving up their disciplinary identity, bringing the larger picture to bear on the more particular research of the cognitive sciences.

Armstrong finds his inspiration in recent neuroscience... his overview of mirror neuron theory and the controversies that surround it, for example, outdoes in accuracy and judiciousness any other account I have seen among neuroaesthetics and cognitive literary studies.

At present, when so many universities would gleefully discard the study of the arts in the service of a utilitarian turn in higher education, the evidence that Armstrong provides for their vital cognitive function and the coherence with which he presents that evidence is indeed both welcome and timely.

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
240
ISBN
9781421415765
Illustration Description
23 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Preface
1. The Brain and Aesthetic Experience
2. How the Brain Learns to Read and the Play of Harmony and Dissonance
3. The Neuroscience of the Hermeneutic Circle
4. The Temporality of Reading and the

Preface
1. The Brain and Aesthetic Experience
2. How the Brain Learns to Read and the Play of Harmony and Dissonance
3. The Neuroscience of the Hermeneutic Circle
4. The Temporality of Reading and the Decentered Brain
5. The Social Brain and the Paradox of the Alter Ego
Epilogue
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Paul B. Armstrong
Featured Contributor

Paul B. Armstrong

Paul B. Armstrong is a professor of English at Brown University. He is the author of several books, including Conflicting Readings: Variety and Validity in Interpretation and Play and the Politics of Reading: The Social Uses of Modernist Form.