Stories and the Brain: The Neuroscience of Narrative

Stories and the Brain: The Neuroscience of Narrative

by Paul B. Armstrong

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Overview

How do our brains enable us to tell and follow stories? And how do stories affect our minds? In Stories and the Brain, Paul B. Armstrong analyzes the cognitive processes involved in constructing and exchanging stories, exploring their role in the neurobiology of mental functioning.

Armstrong argues that the ways in which stories order events in time, imitate actions, and relate our experiences to others' lives are correlated to cortical processes of temporal binding, the circuit between action and perception, and the mirroring operations underlying embodied intersubjectivity. He reveals how recent neuroscientific findings about how the brain works—how it assembles neuronal syntheses without a central controller—illuminate cognitive processes involving time, action, and self-other relations that are central to narrative.

An extension of his previous book, How Literature Plays with the Brain, this new study applies Armstrong's analysis of the cognitive value of aesthetic harmony and dissonance to narrative. Armstrong explains how narratives help the brain negotiate the neverending conflict between its need for pattern, synthesis, and constancy and its need for flexibility, adaptability, and openness to change. The neuroscience of these interactions is part of the reason stories give shape to our lives even as our lives give rise to stories.

Taking up the age-old question of what our ability to tell stories reveals about language and the mind, this truly interdisciplinary project should be of interest to humanists and cognitive scientists alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421437750
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 05/26/2020
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 614,134
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Paul B. Armstrong is a professor of English at Brown University. He is the author of How Literature Plays with the Brain: The Neuroscience of Reading and Art and Play and the Politics of Reading: The Social Uses of Modernist Form.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue
Chapter 1. Neuroscience and Narrative Theory
Chapter 2. The Temporality of Narrative and the Decentered Brain
Chapter 3. Action, Embodied Cognition, and the As-If of Narrative Figuration
Chapter 4. Neuroscience and the Social Powers of Narrative
Epilogue
Notes
Works Cited
Index

What People are Saying About This

"In this deeply learned and unfailingly thoughtful contribution to narrative studies, Paul Armstrong explores what neuroscience, narratology, and narrative can do for each other. In so doing, he develops a distinctive and powerful neurophenomenological model of narrative that deserves the attention of the international community of narratologists."

Guillemette Bolens

"A very valuable addition to the field. In this remarkably well-researched and theoretically sophisticated book, Armstrong discusses central issues and concerns in cognitive literary criticism. Positioning himself forcefully and convincingly, he challenges prior literary theorists, debunking fashionable yet unevidenced claims. It takes a project such as Armstrong's to explain why perspectives that instrumentalize and thereby trivialize literature must be put into question."

James Phelan

"In this deeply learned and unfailingly thoughtful contribution to narrative studies, Paul Armstrong explores what neuroscience, narratology, and narrative can do for each other. In so doing, he develops a distinctive and powerful neurophenomenological model of narrative that deserves the attention of the international community of narratologists."

Richard J. Gerrig

"In Stories and the Brain, Paul Armstrong persuasively and astutely demonstrates that the goals of theories of neuroscience and narrative will only be met through mutual engagement by scholars in the two domains. This book offers provocative challenges to prevailing dogma and advances innovative claims to displace it."

Shaun Gallagher

"Offering an excellent discussion about narrative in the context of embodied neuroscience, Stories and the Brain demonstrates a nuanced understanding of an extensive range of experimental science. An impressive book."

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