The Mirror Neuron Effect: Cognitive Science and the Aesthetic Experience in Literature and the Humanities

By Laura McCullough.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

What did Shelley’s and Eliot’s theories of poetics have in common? The new science of mirror neurons (widely discussed in relation to autism) has profound implications for understanding what could be called “A Mirror Neuron Effect” in response to poetry. Both Eliot and Shelley presaged what cognitive science is revealing about the biology of the aesthetic experience in relation to poetry and this will be examined as well as illustrated through contemporary poets such as Yusef Komunyakaa and James Wright. How do poets achieve this effect, and what are the implications for literature in general both vis a vis critical lenses and from the writer’s craft perspective.

Keywords: Science, Literature, Cognitive Science, Poetics, Craft, Critical Lenses, Poetry, Mirror Neurons, Aesthetics

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 8, pp.17-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 498.281KB).

Prof. Laura McCullough

Assistant Professor, English Dept, Humanities Division, Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, NJ, USA

Laura McCullough graduated with a BA from The Richard Stockton College of NJ and holds an MFA in Writing and Literature from Goddard College. She has been a New Jersey State Arts Council Fellow, won a Geraldine R. Dodge Scholarship to attend the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and was the 2005 Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry at the Nebraska Summer Writers Workshop. She attended the 2005 Bread Loaf writers conference as a contributor. Her short story, “What A Good Dog Knows,” has appeared in Nasty (University of Calgary, Canada) Sept. 2003 issue and “Brick Façade,” appeared in Pierian Springs Review v2 ed 3 spring 2003. Both of these are chapters in her recently completed novel, Finding Ong's Hat. She has published poems widely in literary magazines and journals such as Nimrod, Potion, Hotel Amerika, Gulf Coast, Nightsun, Iron Horse Quarterly, Boulevard, Amarillo Bay, The God Particle, Poetry East, Confluence, Exquisite Corpse, The Potomac, Word Riot, Tarpaulin Sky, and others. Her first collection of poems, The Dancing Bear, was published in February, 2006 by Open Book Press with jacket blurbs by Stephen Dunn, Li-young Lee, and BJ Ward. She delivered a paper, “In Defence of Shelley: the New Science of Mirror Neurons and its Implications for a Theory of Poetics” at The Mid American’s 2005 Winter Wheat Writing Festival in Bowling Green and been interviewed on this subject by Drexel University’s online magazine, Dragonfire. She will be part of a panel, Mirror Neurons, Mathematics and Mind: Where Science and the Craft of Poetry Meet! At the 2007 AWP Conference in Atlanta. She is a professor of writing at Brookdale Community College in NJ where she chairs the Visiting Writers Series.


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