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Title:Cognitive Fictions: The Evolution of Identity in Late-Nineteenth Century Fiction and Science
Author(s):Carluccio, Dana Marie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Somerville, Siobhan
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, American
Abstract:This project claims the term "cognitive fictions" to describe an overlooked epistemology of race and gender in the late-19 th and early-20th century U.S., one that challenges inherited assumptions about the relationships among aesthetics, science, and embodied identity. Histories of turn-of-the-twentieth century U.S. culture commonly depict a shift from interiorizing to social models of identity: writers first rushed to re-articulate old racial and gender essentialisms in new Darwinian vocabularies of biological competition (as Nancy Leys Stepan and Marlon B. Ross have shown), only then to discover new 20th-century metaphors in such fields as pragmatism and cultural anthropology (as Sami Ludwig and George Hutchinson have demonstrated). During the 1880s and 90s, however, a group of diverse American writers had begun to re-conceptualize embodied identity in ways that displaced this dichotomy. These writers became cognitive in two ways: they deliberately staged narrative experiments in the relationship of knowledge to identity, and through those experiments they hypothesized that racial and sexual identity might be hard-wired acts of mind, ineluctable ways of seeing the world rather than accurate ways of classifying the world's inhabitants. This project centers on these writers' narrative experiments, arguing that they reformulated a set of concepts that have become cornerstones of contemporary scientific and cultural studies of identity: concepts of intention, perception, function, and orientation. These reformulations eventually found an institutional home in the burgeoning disciplinary field and cultural notion of evolutionary psychology, so that excavating this turn-of-the-century model allows us not only to recognize that essentialist thinking has evolved beyond stability and fixity, but also to appreciate the inter-disciplinary and popular nature of that evolution.
Issue Date:2008
Description:249 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3347284
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2008

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