The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies

The best definition of cognitive literary studies was offered by Alan Richardson in

  1. Richardson starts by pointing out that “cognitive” is a broad term, referring to “an overriding interest in the active (and largely unconscious) mental processing that makes behavior understandable.” Given the tremendous variety of research programs that investigate mental processing, “cognitive science,” too, is a broad umbrella term. It signifies an interdisciplinary venture, rather like feminist studies or cultural studies, that is loosely held together by a set of common interests, allegiances, and reference points rather than a coherent discipline unified by shared paradigms and methodologies.

It is fitting then that the definition of cognitive literary studies should focus not

on the boundaries, goals, or methods of the field but on its dynamic, relational nature.