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Knowing Subjects: Cognitive Cultural Studies and Early Modern spa Literature

Barbara Simerka
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Purdue University Press
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    Knowing Subjects
    Book Description:

    In Knowing Subjects, Barbara Simerka uses an emergent field of literary study—cognitive cultural studies—to delineate new ways of looking at early modern spa literature and to analyze cognition and social identity in Spain at the time. Simerka analyzes works by Cervantes and Gracían, as well as picaresque novels and comedias. Employing an interdisciplinary approach, she brings together several strands of cognitive theory and details the synergies among neurological, anthropological, and psychological discoveries that provide new insights into human cognition. Her analysis draws on Theory of Mind, the cognitive activity that enables humans to predict what others will do, feel, think, and believe. Theory of Mind looks at how primates, including humans, conceptualize the thoughts and rationales behind other people’s actions and use those insights to negotiate social relationships. This capacity is a necessary precursor to a wide variety of human interactions—both positive and negative—from projecting and empathizing to lying and cheating. Simerka applies this theory to texts involving courtship or social advancement, activities in which deception is most prevalent—and productive. In the process, she uncovers new insights into the comedia (especially the courtship drama) and several other genres of literature (including the honor narrative, the picaresque novel, and the courtesy manual). She studies the construction of gendered identity and patriarchal norms of cognition—contrasting the perspectives of canonical male writers with those of recently recovered female authors such as María de Zayas and Ana Caro. She examines the construction of social class, intellect, and honesty, and in a chapter on Don Quixote, cultural norms for leisure reading at the time. She shows how early modern spa literary forms reveal the relationship between an urbanizing culture, unstable subject positions and hierarchies, and social anxieties about cognition and cultural transformation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-267-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations and Cognitive Terms
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter One Introduction: Cognitive Cultural Studies
    (pp. 1-22)

    Since the advent of cognitive sciences after World War II, several different new models have been proposed to describe the way the human mind and brain function, some complementary and others diametrically opposed. The emerging model of “contextualized” or “ecological” cognition stands in polar opposition to both the behaviorist model of the human mind popular until the 1960s, as well as to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) model that arose in the 1950s (Mancing, “Voices”). Both of the latter paradigms are strictly empirical in nature; they incorporate mind/body dualism, posit a mechanistic brain, and focus on reason and analysis as the...

  6. Chapter Two Theory of Mind, Social Intelligence, and Urban Courtship Drama
    (pp. 23-80)

    Cognitive research emphasizes that social interaction within complex and hierarchical habitats frequently features extensive recourse to Theory of Mind (ToM) and Machiavellian (MI) or Social Intelligence (SI), both to protect oneself from others and to deploy deception for selfish as well as altruistic purposes (see Chapter 1 for a detailed presentation). This chapter seeks to open new avenues of study concerning the connections between gender norms and the use of SI in early modern dramatic literature. Lisa Zunshine links literary study of ToM specifically to narrative texts, beginning with the courtship novels of Jane Austen, because the novel is the...

  7. Chapter Three Social Intelligence and Foraging Primates and Early Modern Pícaros
    (pp. 81-104)

    Theory of Mind (ToM) and Mind Reading (MR) refer to cognitive activities that entail projecting the mental activities of another sentient being, for social purposes that include producing a positive impression, currying favor, and social advancement (Chapter 1). The form of ToM that is used to deceive and manipulate others is called Machiavellian Intelligence (MI) or Social Intelligence (SI) (Byrne and Whiten, “Machiavellian” 1). Cognitive theorists have posited two forms of MR: Theory Theory advocates postulate that human beings form an internalized set of rules, like a grammar, in order to associate observed human behaviors with non-observable internal states. The...

  8. Chapter Four Social Intelligence and Social Climbing: Pícaros and Cortesanos
    (pp. 105-138)

    In Chapter 3, this study traced the initial development of Social Intelligence skills among young picaresque protagonists. The cognitive skills include Mind Reading (MR)—also known as formation of a Theory of Mind (ToM)—for projecting the thoughts of other people who seek to deceive unwary youths, including Simulation Theory and Theory Theory approaches. Over time, the young pícaro will learn to emulate his deceivers, developing the cognitive traits of Machiavellian Intelligence (MI) and Social Intelligence (SI) in order to ascertain the most appropriate modes of deception (see Chapter 1 for a comprehensive survey of this branch of cognitive theory)....

  9. Chapter Five Contextualism, Skepticism, and Honor
    (pp. 139-176)

    Contextualism can be seen as the polar opposite of the mechanistic models of cognitive activity such as Artificial Intelligence and Skinnerian behaviorism discussed in Chapter 1 (Mancing, “Embodied” 26–27). Diane Gillespie’sThe Mind’s We: Contextualism in Cognitive Psychology(1992), rejects quantitative and cause-and-effect emphases in favor of an orientation toward interactive, dynamic, experiential, situational, and context-dependent modalities (Mancing, “Embodied” 29). Gillespie also emphasizes the integration of present and past and the importance of “narrative epistemology”—the validation of storytelling as a cognitive process. Contextualist cognition overlaps in important ways with both the model of the embodied mind and with...

  10. Chapter Six Contextualism and Performance in Lope’s Lo fingido verdadero
    (pp. 177-196)

    Contextualist models of the brain depict perception as a complex cognitive activity that requires conscious and nonconscious processing of multiple streams of information about the reality that surrounds us (Chapter 5). Contextualist cognition can be seen as analogous to the “baroque” preoccupation with the indeterminacy of reality itself (Warnke 69). One of the most striking cultural manifestations of this baroque epistemology is literary reflexivity or meta-art, works that foreground the quandary, how can art hope to imitate a perceived reality when the artist—and his audience—share doubts about the reliability of perception? One of the defining features of baroque...

  11. Chapter Seven Cognition and Reading in Don Quixote
    (pp. 197-226)

    The field of cognitive studies includes a wide variety of approaches that explore many aspects of the human mind/brain and embodied cognition. In this chapter, I will present an overview of several approaches that appear to me to provide the most valuable insights concerning Cervantes’s master work, addressing characters, aesthetics, and ideology. Some topics, such as social intelligence and modularity, have been covered in previous chapters in relation to other genres. But, because of the uniquely “modern” (or even postmodern) nature of this novel, there are several aspects of cognitive study, particularly in the areas of reading and perception, that...

  12. Conclusion The Practice of Cognitive Cultural Studies
    (pp. 227-232)

    In a recent study entitledMacachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World, Dario Maestripieri delineates the ways in which the ability to wield the cognitive tools (or arms) known as Machiavellian Intelligence have enabled rhesus macaques and humans to emerge as two of the most successful primate groups on planet Earth. Within both species, “as groups became larger and more opportunities for complex patterns of cooperation and competition both within and between groups arose, pressures mounted for an increase in Machiavellian intelligence” (171). Some of the most important survival characteristics, including the capacity for deception and...

  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 233-254)
  14. Index
    (pp. 255-259)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-261)