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Forgetful Muses Reading the Author in the Text by Professor Ian Lancashire

Forgetful Muses Reading the Author in the Text


Forgetful Muses Reading the Author in the Text by Professor Ian Lancashire

How can we understand and analyze the primarily unconscious process of writing? In this groundbreaking work of neuro-cognitive literary theory, Ian Lancashire maps the interplay of self-conscious critique and unconscious creativity. Forgetful Muses shows how a writer's own 'anonymous,' that part of the mind that creates language up to the point of consciousness, is the genesis of thought. Those thoughts are then articulated by an author's inner voice and become subject to critique by the mind's 'reader-editor.' The 'reader-editor' engages with the 'anonymous,' which uses this information to formulate new ideas. Drawing on author testimony, cybernetics, cognitive psychology, corpus linguistics, text analysis, the neurobiology of mental aging, and his own experiences, Lancashire's close readings of twelve authors, including Caedmon, Chaucer, Coleridge, Joyce, Christie, and Atwood, serve to illuminate a mystery we all share.


'The age of authors, whether afflicted by dementia or not, can have a profound effect on their works. Late style, characterized by spareness in writing and by clarity in bringing out essentials, also witnesses authors facing up to changes in themselves. [Agatha] Christie must have recognized in herself the condition of forgetfulness and confusion that she depicts in her alter ego, the detective-fiction writer Ariadne [Oliver] ... Was her embodied intention to brood on a suspected cause of the decay in her cognitive powers that she had suspected her novels to show for some time?'
From Forgetful Muses, with research featured in The New York Times Magazine

's Ninth Annual Year in Ideas'

About the Author

Ian Lancashire is a professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th December 2010


Professor Ian Lancashire

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University of Toronto Press


320 pages


Literary studies: general



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