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Haverford College

Literature & Cognition Linguistics Symposium


Daniel G. Altshuler

Daniel G. Altshuler

Visiting Asst. Prof. of Linguistics (Tri-College)

Literature and Cognition

Literature and Cognition Linguistics Symposium

Friday, February 24, 2012, Haverford College

Schedule Speakers Talk Summaries Directions to Haverford

This symposium focuses on the interface between literature and cognition, bringing together five scholars with diverse backgrounds to address the following two questions: (1) How can cognitive science lead to a better appreciation of literature? and (2) How can literature be useful in understanding how the human mind works? In particular, the speakers' works are rooted within: (i) artificial intelligence, (ii) literary theory, (iii) linguistic theory, (iv) psychology and (v) philosophy of language, mind and aesthetics. The goal is to discuss–in a single venue–the study of literature and cognition from these five, different theoretical frameworks.

Organized by Daniel G. Altshuler, Visiting Asst. Prof. of Linguistics (Tri-College).

Sponsored by the John B. Hurford '60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, The TriCo Mellon Faculty Forum and the Distinguished Visitors Fund.

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All events in Stokes 102 (#15 on the Campus Map) unless noted otherwise.

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Gabriel Greenberg

Gabriel Greenberg
(Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Los Angeles)

Gabriel Greenberg recently completed his Ph.D. at Rutgers University. When describing his research, he says: "I am interested in the semantics of symbols, images, and everything in between." His areas of specialization are the philosophy of the mind and the philosophy of language.

Gabriel's dissertation investigated the spectrum of representational systems— from drawing and diagram systems to symbolic codes and languages— using tools from contemporary mathematical semantics, computer science, and philosophy. In particular, his work concentrates on the interpretation of pictorial images, including both casual depictions like snap shots, gestures, and sketches, and highly constructed renderings like maps, architectural plans, artistic works, film, and comic books.

Jerry Hobbs

Jerry Hobbs
(Research Professor and ISI Fellow at the Information Sciences Institute,University of Southern California)

Jerry R. Hobbs is a prominent researcher in the fields of computational linguistics, discourse analysis, and artificial intelligence. He earned his doctor's degree from New York University in 1974 in computer science. From 1977 to 2002 he was with the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International, Menlo Park, California, where he was a principal scientist and program director of the Natural Language Program. He has written numerous papers in the areas of parsing, syntax, semantic interpretation, information extraction, knowledge representation, encoding commonsense knowledge, discourse analysis, the structure of conversation, and the Semantic Web. He is the author of the book Literature and Cognition, and was also editor of the book Formal Theories of the Commonsense World.

In September 2002 Jerry took a position as senior computer scientist and research professor at the Information Sciences Institute, University of Southern California. He has been a consulting professor with the Linguistics Department and the Symbolic Systems Program at Stanford University. He has served as general editor of the Ablex Series on Artificial Intelligence. He is a past president of the Association for Computational Linguistics, and is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. In January 2003 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli
(Professor of Linguistics, Swarthmore College)

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and an award-winning author of several books for children and young adults, including Alligator Bayou (Random House, 2009) and Mama Miti (Simon & Schuster, 2010). She earned her B.A. in mathematics, M.A. in Italian literature, and Ph.D. in Romance linguistics, from Harvard University and then did a postdoc in linguistics at MIT.

When describing linguistics, Donna Jo says, "I haven't met an area of linguistics yet that doesn't fascinate me." She is currently working on sign languages and cognitive issues that arise from their linguistic analysis, but is also engaged in developing materials to help deaf children in North America and Italy learn to read and in protecting the language rights of deaf children. Donna Jo's teaching areas include syntax, morphology, and the structure of American Sign Language. She also researches ways that methodologies in linguistic analysis can be fruitfully used in the analysis of other human activities that involve movement of body parts, including dance and yoga.

Fathali Moghaddam

Fathali Moghaddam
(Professor, Department of Psychology, Director of Conflict Program,Department of Government, Georgetown University)

Born in Iran, Fathali Moghaddam received most of his formal education in the United Kingdom, but returned home in 1979 at the height of the Iranian revolution. There he conducted research on the hostage crisis and early years of the Iran-Iraq war. Dr. Moghaddam worked for the United Nations and for McGill University before coming to Georgetown in 1990. His research and teaching interests include psychological processes associated with inter-group conflict, collective aggression, perceived injustice (particularly human duties and rights), terrorism, culture and democracy, policies for managing diversity. He is also interested in the relationship between psychological science and other fields of human scholarship, such as literature, currently teaching a course entitled "Psychology and Literature."

Fathali is also the Director of the Conflict Resolution program at Georgetown University, which is a program that seeks to build on and reinforce Georgetown University's traditional commitments to peace, outreach, and ethics. He is also the Senior Fellow at CIPERT: the Center for Interdisciplinary Policy, Education and Research on Terrorism. The American Psychological Association (APA) Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence awarded Fathali its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. To find out more about Fathali Moghaddam's research, go to his website:

Alan Richardson

Alan Richardson
(Professor of English, Boston College)

Alan Richardson is Professor of English at Boston College. He holds degrees in English from Princeton University and Harvard University. A Romanticist by training, he has published extensively on the literature and culture of the British Romantic era, especially in relation to issues of gender, childhood and education, race and colonialism, and scientific psychology. Over the past fifteen years, he has devoted his research efforts to exploring intersections between literary studies and the sciences of mind and brain. His books include Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice (1994), British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind (2001) and The Neural Sublime: Cognitive Theories and Romantic Texts (2011). In addition to editing several books in the area of Romanticism, slavery, and imperial culture, he is co-editor, with Francis Steen, of a special issue of Poetics Today on "Literature and the Cognitive Revolution" (2002) and, with Ellen Spolsky, of The Work of Fiction: Cognition, Culture, and Complexity (2004). He has also published some fifty essays in academic journals and book collections. Major honors and awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Keats-Shelley Association Distinguished Scholar Award, the American Conference on Romanticism book prize (for Literature, Education, and Romanticism), and the Alpha Sigma Nu National Jesuit Book Award (for The Neural Sublime). His current research concerns literary and scientific conceptions of imagination from the Romantic era to the present.

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Talk Summaries

Literature, Cognitive Science, and the Return of Imagination
Alan Richardson (Boston College)

Cognitive literary criticism is now well established in the literary academy yet remains a rather small, minority endeavor. Cognitive scientists and neuroscientists have begun to take cognizance of work by their colleagues in departments of literature, yet the use of literary data in cognitive research remains rare and collaboration among scientific researchers and literary scholars still proves exceptional. Where then, to build the bridges that will encourage greater two-way commerce between literary studies and the sciences of brain and mind? In addition to those already being explored by others–including interdisciplinary work on narrative, on mental imagery, on metaphor and conceptual "blending," and on "theory of mind" –I will discuss the return to a recognizably Romantic sense of "imagination" in twenty-first century neuroscience as an especially promising area for interdisciplinary engagement.

Psychology for the Third Millennium: How Jane Austen Got There First
Fathali M. Moghaddam (Georgetown University)

We argue that scientific psychology is moving along two fruitful lines: the first is neuroscience and adopts a causal model, the second is cultural psychology (broadly defined) and adopts a normative model. Much of the confusion and limitations of modern research, including in cognitive, developmental, and social psychology, arises out of the inappropriate application of causal interpretations in cases where behavior is normatively regulated. I explore Jane Austin's depiction of thought and action, particularly in Sense and Sensibility, to illustrate how her insights on the causal/normative divide can guide psychologists.

Censorship: What Children (and Anyone) Should and Shouldn't be Reading
Donna Jo Napoli (Swarthmore College)

The reasons for banning children's books are many, and some are not unreasonable (although there is a case to be made against all book censorship). But some are not only unreasonable, they unwittingly wind up aiming for goals contrary to those of any well-intentioned parent. Reading develops perspective-taking, thus contributing to the moral development of a child – and perhaps to the maintenance of ethical behavior in adult readers. Many censored and "censorable" books are critical to this development.

The Mathematical Logic of Comics
Gabriel Greenberg (UCLA)

Comics– from Superman to Peanuts– are made up of sequences of images, enhanced by word balloons, action lines, and other special effects. Though we can all read and enjoy comics effortlessly, it is not at all clear how we are able to do this. One central puzzle in particular is how are we able to make a sequence of independent images add up to coherent story. What is the narrative glue that holds a comic's many parts together? In this talk, I'll defend the hypothesis that the rules of comic book narrative are surprisingly exact– so exact that they can be described with mathematical and geometrical rules. Successful story-telling of any kind, whether it uses comics, language, or other media, depends on shared cognitive systems, which in turn behave in highly regular and predictable ways.

When Will Computers Understand Shakespeare?
Jerry Hobbs (Information Sciences Institute and University of Southern California)

In this talk I will examine problems encountered in coming to some kind of understanding of one sonnet by Shakespeare (his 64th), ask what it would take to solve these problems computationally, and suggests routes to the solution. This impinges on two questions relevant to the symposium: What light does such a computational analysis throw on a literary work like this? And what challenges for a computational account of discourse interpretation does a literary work like this present. The general conclusion is that we are closer to the goal of understanding literary works than one might think. Or are we?

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Directions to Haverford College

The John B. Hurford '60 Center for Arts and Humanities is located in Stokes Hall Room 102 near the College Avenue entrance to the campus. Parking is available along Walton Road near the building. When entering Stokes Hall through the main entrance at the front of the building immediately turn left and proceed down the hall – Rm. 102 will be on the final room on the right hand side at the end of the hall.

Stokes Hall is #15 on the Campus Map.

Getting Here

Haverford is easily accessible by car, train, and taxi, and is located about 30-45 minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

Parking is available for those who come by car in the South Lot. Parking for prospective students and parents who are visiting the Admission Office is specially reserved on Coursey Road adjacent to the Whitehead Campus Center. This area is reserved on weekdays from 8 am until 5 pm, and on Saturdays from 8 am until Noon.

Driving Directions to Haverford College:

From the west:

Take Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 326, the Valley Forge interchange. Follow sign to I-76 East. Take I-76 East to Exit 331A for I-476 South. Proceed south on I-476 to Exit 13 (US 30), St. Davids/Villanova. Turn east (right) onto Lancaster Ave. (US 30). Proceed east for 3.5 miles. Turn right at the main entrance of the Haverford campus (just past Haverford Station Rd.). Follow signs to the visitor parking lot.

From the north:

Take the Northeast Extension south to I-476 South. Proceed south on I-476 to Exit 13, (US 30) St. Davids/Villanova. Turn east (right) onto Lancaster Ave. (US 30). Proceed east for 3.5 miles. Turn right at the main entrance of the Haverford campus (just past Haverford Station Rd.). Follow signs to the visitor parking lot.

From south of Philadelphia:

Take I-95 North to Exit 7, I-476 North. Proceed north on I-476 to Exit 13, (US 30) St. Davids/Villanova. Turn east (right) onto Lancaster Ave. (US 30). Proceed east for 3.5 miles. Turn right at the main entrance of the Haverford campus (just past Haverford Station Rd.). Follow signs to the visitor parking lot.

From northern New Jersey:

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 6, the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange. Follow the PA Turnpike west to Exit 333, I-476 South. Proceed south on I-476 to Exit 13, (US 30) St. Davids/Villanova. Turn east (right) onto Lancaster Ave. (US 30). Proceed east for 3.5 miles. Turn right at the main entrance of the Haverford campus (just past Haverford Station Rd.). Follow signs to the visitor parking lot.

From southern New Jersey:

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Route 322 West. Cross the Commodore Barry Bridge to I-95 North; follow I-95 North to Exit 7 for I-476 North. Proceed north on I-476 to Exit 13, (US 30) St. Davids/Villanova. Turn east (right) onto Lancaster Ave. (US 30). Proceed east for 3.5 miles. Turn right at the main entrance of the Haverford campus (just past Haverford Station Rd.). Follow signs to the visitor parking lot.

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