Seminar 7: ‘In this distracted globe’?: Cognitive Shakespeare

The two sentinels protecting the castle from unfamiliar shapes in Hamlet, the cognitive mind-game revolving around the ‘ocular proof’ in Othello, or the mechanisms of the dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Shakespeare’s plays function in different way as cognitive laboratories that provide insight into “this distracted globe” by displaying the workings of the mind. Influenced by early modern concepts of memory, the spirits of body and mind, and theories on (visual) perception, Shakespeare’s plays approach the topic of ‘cognition’ from various angles.

While the last decade has seen an increasing number of publications dealing with cognition in Shakespeare (including Mary Thomas Crane’s seminal Shakespeare’s Brain (2000), Patrick Colm Hogan’s and Lalita Pandit’s special issue of College Literature on the topic of “Cognitive Shakespeare in the Age of Neuroscience” (2006) and Marcus Nordlund’s Shakespeare and the Nature of Love (2007)), the topic remains largely under-researched to date. Taking these and further studies on the topic as starting point, we would like to discuss and evaluate new approaches to ‘cognitive Shakespeare’ in this seminar. If Shakespeare’s plays, in Keith Oatley’s words, are “simulations that run on minds,” what can they tell us about these minds? In what way are Shakespeare’s plays informative about the cognitive processes that form the basis of our understanding and appreciating them? What does this do to the distinction between body and mind, itself a pervasive topic in Shakespeare’s plays? Can naturalist approaches explain the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s drama? Are certain themes and motifs anthropological constants that Shakespeare tapped into with particular insight and sensitivity? Can Shakespeare’s plays help us rethink the processes of aesthetic production and reception at large? Can they be helpful in illuminating the interplay of and division between form and content? To what extent did they serve as medium to disseminate knowledge about cognition? Can we speak of a ‘theatre of the mind’ and how does Shakespeare’s cognitive theatre connect to other drama of the time? And last but not least, how we implement these new approaches of cognitive studies into teaching Shakespeare to students?

Papers could address, but are not restricted to, one or more of the following topics: embodied cognition in Shakespeare; beauty, ugliness, and the brain; brains and bodies; conceptual metaphors; the passions of the mind and their cognitive scope; the Globe’s / ‘globe’s’ cognitive design or architecture; mind-games or -tricks; cognition and the question of genre; movement, stasis, and cognition; hallucinations and dreams; memory and cognition; audience response; notions of nature vs. nurture; visual perception, performance, and cognition; teaching ‘cognitive Shakespeare’……

The format of this panel is that of a seminar. Instead of having participants present their work, (short) papers will be circulated before the conference to insure maximum time for dialogue amongst participants. During the seminar, we will focus on discussing individual approaches as well as explore the impact of this new field of research on teaching Shakespeare both in the classroom and at university.

Please send a 250-word abstract of your proposed paper by 1 July 2013 to both of the organizers of this panel (->] and [), stating your name, email address and affiliation.