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GCSC-Conference Cognition, Culture, Narrative

GCSC - JLU Giessen

December 6 - 8, 2023

(organized by Jan Alber, Ansgar Nünning, Robin Schmieder, and Meike Wiegand)

This conference addresses the triangular relationship between mental processes, cultural parameters, and the narrative mode, trying to gauge how cognition, cultures, and narratives mutually shape each other. It seeks to bring together scholars who combine narrative and cultural analysis with insights from neuroscience, discursive psychology, cognitive evolutionary psychology and anthropology, cognitive linguistics, and philosophy of mind. Stories appear in every known human culture, where they sometimes correlate with rather similar, but sometimes also radically different ways of thinking and sensemaking. As Ellen Spolsky puts it, one important question is therefore how "the evolved architecture that grounds human cognitive processing, especially as it manifests itself in the universality of storytelling and the production of visual art, interacts with the apparently open-ended set of cultural and historical contexts in which humans find themselves, so as to produce the variety of social constructions that are historically distinctive, yet also often translatable across the boundaries of time and place" (2004: viii).

In the context of this conference, we try to determine how and why the human mind resorts to different narratives in distinct cultural environments. In other words, our goals are (1) to analyze the mental processes underlying specific manifestations of narrative in their cultural-historical moments, (2) to show to what extent cultures rely on cognitive operations and involve story-like patterns, and (3) to illustrate that narratives are always expressions of the ways in which we (can) think in concrete cultural contexts. We are interested in the question of how fictional and factual narratives (including folktales, legends, myths, fairy tales, histories, operas, films, television shows, novels, plays, poems, dance performances, biographies, jokes, and personal anecdotes) are expressive of mental processes that are, in turn, framed by cultural categories, values, and norms. The focus of the conference will be on the theoretical conceptualization of the relationship between cognition, cultures and narratives

Please find the full program here

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