The Style of Gestures
Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative
In this volume Guillemette Bolens examines the ways in which artists, authors, and readers draw on skills, sensorimotor capacities, and embodied knowledge when creating and experiencing artistic and literary works. In so doing, Bolens offers a new literary perspective on gesture studies and the role of embodied cognition in narrative.
At the cutting edge of interdisciplinary inquiries into gesture, style, narratology, cognition, and literature, this work brings together academic expertise in literary studies with a consideration of neuroscientific and cognitive findings. Bolens studies the relevance of kinesic intelligence—our ability to understand the meaning of body movements, postures, gestures, and facial expressions—to the interpretation of literature. Through her discussions of works by John Milton, Jane Austen, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and major medieval authors, Bolens shows how our experience of creative works draws on forms of cognition that are grounded in our corporeality.
This book represents a crucial contribution from a literary scholar to the exciting new field of embodied cognition. With a foreword by well-known neuroscientist Alain Berthoz, The Style of Gestures convincingly makes the case that embodied cognition is essential to the reception, understanding, and enjoyment of art and literature.
About the Authors
Guillemette Bolens is a professor of English literature at the University of Geneva and author of the award-winning La Logique du corps articulaire: Les articulations du corps humain dans la littérature occidentale.
This book is truly groundbreaking, an outstanding work that is highly original in both its object and methodology. At a time when literary studies need to be renewed and extended to new interdisciplinary collaborations, there is no doubt to me that this book will attract wide attention both in teaching and research.
What is remarkable about The Style of Gestures... is that it combines a precisely grounded model from neuroscience with persuasive readings of texts across a wide historical range, from medieval works such as Gawain and the Green Knight via Shakespeare and Milton to Joyce and Proust. Guillemette Bolens is a medievalist and a comparatist, and she is always sensitive to the cultural constraints within which her readings must operate: no one could accuse her of reductive universalism or anachronism. Her work thus provides a powerful and persuasive example of what a cognitive literary criticism can achieve.
This book successfully translates its analytic tools and interpretative frameworks beyond the page into the reader’s next reading experience and, perhaps, social encounter. As Bolens writes, ‘literature is powerful because, more than any other type of discourse, it triggers the activation of unpredicted sensorimotor configurations and surprises the mind with its own imaginative and cognitive possibilities.’
The Style of Gestures brings interdisciplinary research from the field of embodied cognition to medieval textual criticism, and the results are remarkable... Bolens's work demonstrates the clear advantages of embracing the shift towards embodied cognition.
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