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Cognitive Fictions

2002
Author:

Joseph Tabbi

Cognitive Fictions

The first comprehensive look at the effect of new technologies on contemporary American fiction

Bringing together cognitive science and literary analysis to map a new "media ecology," Cognitive Fictions limns an evolutionary process in which literature must find its place in an artificial environment partly produced and thoroughly mediated by technological means. Joseph Tabbi provides a penetrating account of a developing consciousness emerging from the struggle between print and electronic systems of communication.

Intellectually challenging, very stimulating. Paves the way for more studies in its vein and wake.

Pynchon Notes

Bringing together cognitive science and literary analysis to map a new "media ecology," Cognitive Fictions limns an evolutionary process in which literature must find its place in an artificial environment partly produced and thoroughly mediated by technological means. Joseph Tabbi provides a penetrating account of a developing consciousness emerging from the struggle between print and electronic systems of communication.

Central to Tabbi’s work is the relation between the arrangement of communicating "modules" that cognitive science uses to describe the human mind and the arrangement of visual, verbal, and aural media in our technological culture. He looks at particular literary works by Thomas Pynchon, Richard Powers, David Markson, Lynne Tillman, Paul Auster, and others as both inscriptions of thought consistent with distributed cognitive models, and as self-creations out of the media environment.

The first close reading of contemporary American writing in the light of systems theory and cognitive science, Cognitive Fictions makes needed sense of how the moment-by-moment operations of human thought find narrative form in a world increasingly defined by competing and often incompatible representations.

Cognitive Fictions

Joseph Tabbi is associate professor of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Cognitive Fictions

Intellectually challenging, very stimulating. Paves the way for more studies in its vein and wake.

Pynchon Notes

Cognitive Fictions presents a persuasive argument for reconceptualizing narrative in light of the rapid technological explosion. The characteristics that have defined fiction will be its savior. In a world that increasingly reduces all experience to code, from the digital files of music and movies to the genetic manipulations of corn and mice, literature stands apart.

American Book Review

How scholarship has not only grown up but taken quantum leaps ahead of what was considered only recently the cutting edge is demonstrated by Joseph Tabbi. His Cognitive Fictions corrects many misunderstandings that had become conventional wisdom.

American Literary Scholarship

Breaking new ground, Cognitive Fiction makes a strong case for the cognitional materiality of writing and reading.

Review of Contemporary Fiction

Tabbi has written a thoughtful and provocative book. It offers creative interpretation of recent American literature. Tabbi’s vision of the present and future of literature may indeed enhance self understanding and aesthetic appreciation.

Utopian Studies

This intelligent study engages with several fields of inquiry to explore the distinctive forms and functions of texts by contemporary American writers.

symploke

Tabbi’s readings and presentations of theoretical material are carried off with all the clarity, literary sensitivity, and command of argument that can be expected from a mature and accomplished scholar. His passion for both literary writing and for the urgency of understanding and defending its place in the electronic mediasphere is deep and infectious.

Contemporary Literature

Tabbi is one of our most accomplished readers of contemporary experimental letters, and this book is less an extension than a kind of dimensional extrusion of the concerns of his earlier Postmodern Sublime.

American Literature

Tabbi’s work breaks crucial new ground in thinking both about the materiality of the media environment within which reading takes place and about the production of consciousness in the act of encountering informational complexity. Cognitive Fictions is a book that points to new ways of engaging with cultural phenomena of all sort, a refreshing departure from the tired twentieth-century approach that treated anything at all as a ‘text’ available for analysis.

Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies