Herman, David

Assigned: Herman, David. “Narrative Theory after the Second Cognitive Revolution” (2552-69). Also read the editors’ introduction (2549-51).

“Narrative Theory after the Second Cognitive Revolution” (2010)

1. On 2552-53 (“In parallel with the other…”), David Herman proposes to concentrate on “the nexus between narrative and mind”; in doing so, he will draw upon “discursive psychology” (2552). How does Herman (citing Derek Edwards and Jonathan Potter), define this field? What is its focus? What does it avoid concentrating on, and why? What basic contrast does Herman make between what he calls “the first cognitive revolution” and the “second cognitive revolution” (2553) to which he himself is contributing?

“Hills Like White Elephants”: Key Aspects         

2. On 2553-54 (“Hemingway’s brief story—it has…”), according to Herman, why is Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants” particularly useful for his purposes? What does the story accomplish that is better illuminated by a practice stemming from the second cognitive revolution than “behaviorist” narrative theory, which concentrates only on “overt, surface behaviors of the characters…” (2554)? While Hemingway describes himself as following a “tip-of-the-iceberg method” as a writer, what approach to analyzing “Hills Like White Elephants” does Herman’s narrative theory instead suggest? If the psychological aspects of the story exist but are not to be found “beneath the surface of the characters’ verbal and nonverbal actions” (2554), where can we find them?

Recent Conceptions of Mind: Some Swings of the Post-Cartesian Pendulum

3. On 2554-56 (“Research concerned with the nature…”), Herman offers a brief history of thinking about “the nature of the mind…” (2554 bottom). What commentary does he offer on Cartesian dualism, introspectionism, behaviorism, the first cognitive revolution, and the second cognitive revolution? What is the central distinguishing characteristic of each of these historical phases of inquiry? (2555-56)

4. On 2556-57 (“But what developments helped…”), how does Herman explain what caused the transition from earlier models of how the mind works to more modern, “discursively oriented models” (2556 bottom)? What two main sources of change does he identify? (2557) Consider also his remarks about Ludwig Wittgenstein’s account of “meaning” (2557). Moreover, Wittgenstein argues that pain cannot be reduced to “a private, inner language” but must instead be attributed to “rule-oriented displays within normative contexts” (2557). How does that idea help illustrate the transition to a discursive model of mental operation? According to Herman, what common features or imperatives link all of these notions? (2557)

Hemingway and the Discursive Mind; Positioning Theory

5. On 2557-60 (“Putting Hemingway’s story into…”), Herman identifies five key concepts of the discursive-psychological theory of narrative: “(1) positioning; (2) embodiment; (3) the distributed versus localized nature of mind; (4) emotion discourse and ‘emotionology’; and (5) qualia…” (2558). How does Herman define and explain the first of these; namely, “positioning theory” (2558)? What account does he offer regarding how positioning operates in Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants”? How does the female character, Jig, end up rejecting the position foisted upon her by the unnamed male character who is urging her to get an abortion? According to Herman, what significant questions does discursive theory allow critics to formulate that “classical narrative theory” (2560) does not?


6. On 2560-61 (“The second key concept emerging…”), how does Herman define and explain the second key concept of discursive-psychological narrative theory, “embodiment” (2560)? How does embodiment go beyond simply showing that “the structures of language can be correlated with the physical embodiment of the mind” (2561)? That is, what more does it assert or show regarding the very constitution of characters in stories? How does Herman illustrate this concept at work in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”? (2561)

Mind as Distributed

7. On 2561-63 (“In synergy with the concepts…”), how does Herman define and explain the third key concept of discursive-psychological narrative theory, “mind as distributed” (2561)? How, according to Herman, does this concept lead researchers to construe the nature of “cognition” (2561 bottom)? How, in his view, does Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” show the validity of this concept? In what sense do both of Hemingway’s characters in this story “jointly (if oppositionally)” (2563) define or come to an understanding of their mutual situation?

Emotion Discourse and Emotionology

8. On 2563-64 (“In research on emotion, as…”), how does Herman define and explain the fourth key concept of the discursive-psychological narrative theory, “emotion discourse and emotionology” (2563)? What is the difference between the “naturalist” and “constructionist” views of research on human emotion? (2563) According to Ralph Adolphs, as cited by Herman, how can these two positions be reconciled? If they are reconciled, what achievement then becomes possible, according to Herman, for those who study the role of emotion in human life? What are “emotionologies” (2564), and what is their purpose? How, according to Herman, do narratives relate to and affect a community’s specific emotionology?

9. On 2564-67 (“Gerald Prince cites Hemingway’s…”), according to Herman, by what means does Hemingway’s story “Hills Like White Elephants” participate in an “emotionology”? How does the story clue readers in to “a larger emotionalogical context” (2565) that then allows them better to interpret the characters’ actions? In what sense does the female character Jig’s choice of “emotion terms and categories” (2565), in Herman’s view, amount to a very different and more subtle strategy than the one taken by the male character? How might this affect our overall understanding of the story’s meaning? How, too, does Herman suggest that the narrative theory he supports might be turned towards larger analytic and therapeutic projects than literary analysis? (2566-67)

The Problem of Qualia

10. On 2567-68 (“As Janet Levin notes, ‘[t]he terms…”), Herman turns to the fifth and final key concept of discursive-psychological narrative theory: “qualia” (2567). How does he define and explain this concept? What does Monika Fludernik, as cited by Herman, apparently mean by her term “experientiality” (2567)? In what sense does Fludernik characterize this phenomenon as “a core property of narrative itself” (2567)? What key questions does Herman raise in the course of explaining the implications of qualia in narrative? (2567-68) How, in his interpretation, are qualia at play in Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” (2568)?

Horizons for Cognitive Narratology

11. On 2568-69 (“Focusing on scenes of talk as…”), what prospects does Herman lay out for the conjunction of narrative theory and discursive psychology going forward? What are the main questions he poses about its potential not only to enlighten those who study narrative but even to move beyond that horizon to other kinds of semiotic systems?

12. General question: In “Narrative Theory after the Second Cognitive Revolution,” David Herman takes as his point of departure the discursive psychology-based theory that “the mind does not preexist discourse, but is ongoingly accomplished in and through its production and interpretation” (2553). By way of illustrating the five key concepts he associates with narrative theory based on discursive psychology (see 2558), he offers a brief analysis of Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants.” Choose your own short text and offer at least a partial analysis of it using some of the key concepts identified by Herman. Does this approach allow you to read the story differently than you ordinarily would? How so, or why not?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

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