Editors’ Choice: A Cognitive/Computational Understanding of the Text, and How it Motivates the Description of Literary Form

A Diagram of the model.

In a previous post in this series I criticized the vague spatial metaphors literary critics use to understand the text and nature of critical inquiry. Think of those vague spatial metaphors as the founding “myth” of post-war literary criticism, one that allowed the explication of “meaning” to take center stage. In advocating a mode of literary investigation organized around computation and form, I submit that I have been, in effect, proposing a new founding myth.“Myth”, I suppose, is not quite the right word. After all myths are stories and that complex of spatial metaphors is not a story, nor is my computational alternative. “Conceptual matrix” might be a better, though more elaborate, term. But myth has the right valence, suggesting as it does something of an unmoved conceptual mover. It is, horror of horrors, foundational. That old and still dominant myth elides the distinction between ordinary reading and interpretive reading – they’re both just reading, no? – and is all but blind to the formal features of texts, though it supports a vigorous discourse in which formalism is opposed to context and history. The myth I’ve been proposing insists that interpretive analysis is different from ordinary reading, though this is not a focal point in this mythography…

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