Recent developments in cognitive science have overturned the restrictions of behaviorism and have once again made consciousness a legitimate object of scientific investigation. New brain scanning technologies have introduced the possibility of mapping the neural correlates of consciousness, thereby offering a full, materialist account of the mind. This article argues that an emergent subgenre of contemporary fiction has both formally integrated and critically assessed these discourses of the mind. The “neuronovels” of Ian McEwan, David Lodge, and others have specifically addressed “the explanatory gap” between the third-person accounts of neuroscience and the first-person perspective of conscious experience—a gap that some philosophers of mind regard as an irreducible obstacle to any complete, scientific explanation of consciousness. Novels such as McEwan's Enduring Love (1998) and Lodge's Thinks … (2002) transform this problem of qualia into a formal problem of narrative style. Finally, this article shows that such conceptual transactions between cognitive science and contemporary literature move in both directions. While recent fiction has integrated the discourses and problems posed by brain science, neuroscientists have drawn upon the narrative techniques of experimental literature in order to present their evolving theories of consciousness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory