DFG Research Training Group Globalization and Literature. Representations, Transformations,  Interventions

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Claudine Bollinger

Claudine Bollinger, M.A.

Altered Cognition and Fictionality in Contemporary Science Fiction

Dissertation Abstract

This project will analyse cognition altered by (fictional) science or technology in works of contemporary Anglophone science fiction. It will examine the narrative depiction of innovations such as brain implants that connect characters to a computer, or nano-drugs that allow them to communicate quasi-telepathically with other nano-drug users. Such innovations are often portrayed as having far-reaching societal consequences and philosophical implications. Altered cognition renegotiates our understanding of the individual and societies. Such texts often connect these themes with depictions of humanity as having left the earth and therefore have, at their core, questions of global and even extra-
global identity. They also problematise the narrative construction of fact and fiction, both within the characters' world and from an extratextual perspective. I will focus on the epistemological considerations that narrative depictions of technological and scientific innovations typically entail.
This interdisciplinary project is located in the field of literature and science and will be based on a narratological approach, as well as the following three theories or concepts. Carefully selected concepts from the cognitive sciences will provide the foundation for understanding the construction of characters' perception, knowledge, and thought in fiction. Then, possible-worlds theory as adapted for literary studies (e.g. by Marie-Laure Ryan; Lubomír Doležel) will allow me to draw a comparison between the fictional world and the reader’s extratextual world. Lastly, the concept of fictionality, which is closely related to possible-worlds theory and its inherent epistemological concerns, will help evaluate fictional cognition and its impact. The analysis of Anglophone works that centrally thematise altered cognition will yield significant insights into depictions of the nature of cognition, of knowledge processing and construction, and, by extension, of how we define the human.

Short CV

Since 2018 PhD Candidate at the Research Training Group

09/2016-03/2018: Assistant, University of Bern, Switzerland

2016: M.A. English Languages and Literatures, focus on literature, University of Bern, Switzerland

2013: B.A. English Languages and Literatures, University of Bern, Switzerland