Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture

Lecture | Patrick Colm Hogan | Cognitive Aesthetics: Beauty, the Brain, and Virginia Woolf

Episode Summary

Lecture | Patrick Colm Hogan | Cognitive Aesthetics: Beauty, the Brain, and Virginia Woolf

Episode Notes

In this talk, drawn from his book, Beauty and Sublimity: A Cognitive Aesthetics of Literature and the Arts (Cambridge University Press, 2016), Hogan outlines an account of aesthetic response that synthesizes the insights of cognitive neuroscience with those implicit in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Hogan begins by briefly outlining an explanation of beauty based on human information processing (specifically, pattern isolation and prototype approximation). He goes on to consider complications. These complications include the simple, but highly consequential matter of differentiating judgments of beauty from aesthetic response. They also include the relative neglect of literature in neurologically-based discussions of beauty, which tend to focus on music or visual art. There is in addition the potentially more difficult issue of the relative neglect of emotion, beyond the reward system. Related to this last point, there is the very limited treatment of the sublime in empirical research and associated theoretical reflection. After considering these issues broadly, Hogan turns to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, examining its treatment of beauty and sublimity. The aim of this section is not merely to illuminate Woolf’s novel by reference to neuroscientific research. It is equally, perhaps more fully, to expand our neuroscientifically grounded account of aesthetic response by drawing on Woolf’s novel. (February 18, 2016) Sponsored by the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence’s University Course Initiative, with support from the CMBC.