About Us

Literature has always honored the power of the imagination in shaping our experience of the world.  Current developments in psychoanalysis, psychology, philosophy, cognitive science and neurobiology confirm the profound importance of language in structuring the mind’s representations and re-workings of reality.  Study of the mind is now one of our most exciting and inventive fields of interdisciplinary research, informed by and informing not only literary criticism and theory but also the study of cultural and social practice.  Language is known to play a central role in creating memories, processing emotions, and thinking.  Verbal creativity and interpretation are vital to our survival and well-being; constructing narrative, analyzing the past, and creating fictional models are crucial to all human activity, from technological invention to falling in love to planning revolutions.  This is why we have always needed, and always loved, literature.  When we try to speak the unspeakable–whether trauma or rapture–we call it poetry.  When our wishes are unfulfilled, we create legends. When we are terrified by one another, we put ourselves, and our conflicts, on stage, and try to learn empathy.  “Literature and the Mind” explores how and why symbolic activity helps us create, rather than suffer from, reality.


UCSB’s English Department encourages its students–both undergraduates and graduates alike–to pursue their particular interests while also developing a broad understanding of English, American, and Anglophone literature with a cognitive approach. Accordingly, we offer an undergraduate specialization in “Literature and the Mind.” Graduate students interested in the pursuit of psychoanalytic, philosophical, and neuroscientific approaches to literary study may take one segment of the First Qualifying Exam in “Literature and the Mind” in addition to courses on related topics.

(image: Salvador Dali, “Mad Tea Party”)

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