I recently studied Peter Stockwell’s two-week course on cognitive poetics via Future Learn, a free online study resource. Cognitive poetics is a tool of literary criticism that applies some elements of cognitive psychology to understanding of literature, and particularly how readers engage with and understand a text. In this article I’m going to talk a little bit about what cognitive poetics is, and then briefly about Future Learn as a useful tool for the writer.
Cognitive poetics begins with the idea of the “Theory of Mind”. This is our capacity to recognise other entities as having beliefs, perspectives and world views of their own. Somewhere in our earliest childhood we begin to recognise that those around us might be thinking, feeling creatures like ourselves. But how do we know that they are people? And how can we figure out what their individual beliefs and perspectives are?