Michael Winkelman ’91

Michael has published a new book: A Cognitive Approach to John Donne’s Songs and Sonnets, part of publisher Palgrave Macmillan’s series titled “Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance.” Investigations into brain function have led to recent remarkable discoveries with profound implications for interpreting literature. Donne, who wrote in the 17th century, was a contemporary of Shakespeare and one of the first Metaphysical poets. He later became a famous cleric many of whose meditations are cited today. For example, “Meditation XVII” from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions includes the famous prose passage that begins “No man is an island” and concludes with “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Donne’s probing insights, expressed in his unique Metaphysical style, make his amorous verse a ripe subject for cognitive analysis. Winkelman’s study applies recent breakthroughs from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology in order to deepen the understanding of Donne’s songs and sonnets. By applying findings from neurolinguistics to Donne’s work, Winkelman presents a test case for the cognitive interpretation of verse and, more broadly, advances the case of New Humanism.

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