This essay is part of an interdisciplinary research project into literary aesthetics and its relationship with pedagogy. The paper brings cognitive and evolutionary scientific perspectives to bear on literary and cultural theory to address the aesthetic effect (defined as the transporting and transformative power of the literary text) and its potential personal or civic benefits. The paper offers non-transcendentalist explanations for the aesthetic experience, viewing it less as a privileged category of feeling than as an experience available to all symbolic beings. The paper also proposes an original thesis about the virtual and transformative space of reading as one that ultimately epitomises intellectual freedom. The inquiry is lent urgency by the current cultural and political climate in which not only literature but also literary studies, despite its long association with education and its prominent place in the Culture Wars, is in institutional decline.
Field of Research
200525 Literary Theory 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified