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How the Novel Found its Feet (completed)

What changes in eighteenth-century writing style and storytelling have contributed to the immersive nature of narrative prose that we still consider the hallmark of the novel today?

About the project

How the Novel Found its Feet investigates how the eighteenth-century novel develops a repertoire of embodied language that involves readers in its immersive narratives, giving them a sense of “being there” in the fictional world and, at the same time, maintaining moments of reflection.

We see this repertoire of embodied language, evoking emotional and physical resonances in readers, developing across a series of case studies covering the entire century:

  1. In the seduction scenes and accounts of amorous adventures devised by the bestselling novelist Eliza Haywood from the 1720s to the 1750s
  2. In Charlotte Lennox’s translations from the French and her journal The Lady’s Museum (1760)
  3. In Sarah Fielding’s engagements in the battle between the ancients and the moderns and her genre experiments, in particular in The Cry (1754; with Jane Collier)
  4. In Frances Burney’s negotiations between life-writing and fiction-writing across her diaries and novels from the 1770s to the 1790s.

While the novel develops towards a more subtle and versatile repertoire of embodiment, it does not necessarily become more realist. How the Novel Found its Feet takes this as an invitation to think more generally about the role of realism in cognitive literary criticism and about other ways of rooting the novel in the eighteenth-century lifeworld.

The project has been funded by the Academy of Finland (2013-2016).

Publications connected to the project include:

Kukkonen, Karin. "Fantastic Cognition." In: Michael Burke and Emily Troscianko (eds.) Dialogues between Literature and Cognition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017: 151-167.

Kukkonen, Karin. “When Social Minds Get into Trouble: The Narrative Dynamics of Externalist and Internalist Perspectives” Orbis Litterarum 71.4 (2016): 307-327.

Kukkonen, Karin. "Bayesian Bodies: The Predictive Dimension of Embodied Cognition." In: Peter Garrett (ed.) The Embodied Mind in Culture. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016: 153-169.


The monograph 4E Cognition and Eighteenth-Century Fiction: How the Novel Found its Feet is forthcoming with OUP in 2019.

See The Return of Astrea and Reading Revolutions for popular presentations of topics connected to the project.

Tags: Romanteori, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Cognitive Poetics
Published Dec. 21, 2015 1:45 PM - Last modified Nov. 10, 2018 9:12 AM