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Forgetful Muses

Forgetful Muses: Reading the Author in the Text

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Forgetful Muses
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking work of neuro-cognitive literary theory, Ian Lancashire maps the interplay of self-conscious critique and unconscious creativity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8632-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures, Distribution Graphs, and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Credits and Sources
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction: Finding the Author in the Text
    (pp. 3-19)

    Is there an author in this book? Roland Barthes, in ʹThe Death of the Authorʹ (1967), thought not. Only the reader assigns meaning to a work, he believed; a reader, as the ʹsiteʹ of the text, supplies its interpretation from its nature as a ʹfabric of quotations, resulting from a thousand sources of cultureʹ (1989, 53–4). Many literary critics since have agreed – their own works excepted – and call readers who rely on authorial intention naive (de Beaugrande 1989). Barthes conceded a little ground for authorship attribution – the determination of who wrote a text by finding evidence...

  7. 1 Experiencing the Muse
    (pp. 20-52)

    The classical notion of the nine Muses represents our inner voice in creative process. We listen daily to our minds think in an auditory silence, and a few among us may hear a different voice, unfamiliar as our own. In classical myth the Muses (Sperduti 1950) were the divine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and enabled a god to possess and use a human as a tool for prophecy. Frenzy, mania, and madness afflicted anyone seized for this reason. Later, poets like Hesiod and Homer associated the Muses not with possession but with gentler inspiration, validating the poetsʹ wisdom. The...

  8. 2 Uttering
    (pp. 53-100)

    Alice Flaherty, MD, PhD, is a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (directing its Brain Stimulator Unit) and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who has had muse experiences. About a decade ago, ten days after she lost twin boys in premature delivery, she went through an irrepressible, four-month-long bout of writing. A year later she gave birth to twin girls, and the same experience followed. Her hypergraphia – an overwhelming desire to write – generated enough material to fill a book.The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writerʹs Block, and the Creative Brainwas published in 2004. Flaherty...

  9. 3 Cybertextuality
    (pp. 101-115)

    Authors often are initially excited by what they utter, only a day later to be dismayed by it. They are their first readers and worst critics in the hangover of muse intoxication. Their subsequent conscious reworking of what largely unconscious flow leaves behind conforms to Norbert Wienerʹs cybernetics, which theorizes the mechanics of communication as two-directional messaging and reciprocal feedback.

    Wiener in mid-century coined the word ʹcyberneticsʹ (which comes from the Greek word for steersman,kubernetes) to name a theory of communication that became the basis for information science, the mathematical underpinnings of electronic communications systems that Claude Shannon developed...

  10. 4 Poet-authors
    (pp. 116-193)

    The Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (ca 1343–1400), like Cædmon, described himself as a shy working man whose dreams thrust him into public authoring. Cædmon left the banquet hall for the stable before the harp could reach him. In Chaucer’s first long poem,The Book of the Duchess, he portrays himself as fearful of dying from sleeplessness. In the second dream vision,The House of Fame, he confesses himself a very dull fellow. On arriving home alone from his daily job, he sits, overweight and hermit-like (574, 660), ʹdomb as any stoonʹ (656), reading a book until he is...

  11. 5 Novelist-authors
    (pp. 194-243)

    The novelistʹs own Anonymous, like the poetʹs, assembles chunks in fragments that size up to his cognitive load limit. Unlike poems, however, novels integrate such fragments by reference to the locations, the characters, the events, and the chronology of a story. They make up the imaginative superstructure governing how the novelist sequences and organizes these chunk assemblies. It may never take verbal form beyond a partial outline and a synopsis. What mental function, then, holds this overarching organization, a narrative, together? Apparently episodic long-term memory does.

    Endel Tulving theorizes episodic memory to be cognitive time travel by a self experiencing...

  12. 6 Reading the Writerʹs Own Anonymous
    (pp. 244-258)

    Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, The Winter’s Tale, Biographia Literaria, andFour Quartetshave camel-like come through the eye of a cognitive needle, the alpha and omega values for chunk and load. If the phonological loop evolved for language learning, as Alan Baddeley believes, then it is the Procrustean bed on which an author lies down. Syntactic priming and chunking are consequences of the sleep of consciousness in that bed. Language and storymaking depend on its cognitive infrastructure, however many writing technologies we develop as artificial memory systems, however cunning we are in devising editing tools. Authors create the schemata out...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 259-276)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 277-286)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 287-316)
  16. Index
    (pp. 317-339)