Terence Cave is Emeritus Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of St John’s College. He has spent most of his academic career at Oxford, but has also held visiting posts at universities in the USA, in France, and in Norway. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He holds an honorary doctorate at Royal Holloway University of London. In 2009 he was awarded the International Balzan Prize for Literature since 1500. His latest book, Thinking with Literature: Towards a Cognitive Criticism (2016), explores new ways of approaching the relation between literary studies and the interdisciplinary field of cognitive studies.
Early modern French literature and culture, with particular reference to the Essais of Montaigne; European literature and poetics; lyric poetry and song; cognitive approaches to literature.
The Literary Artefact as a Paradigm of Cognition
My current research represents the culmination of a long-term project. My overall aim is to develop ways of integrating literary studies into the interdisciplinary field of cognitive studies without erasing the features that make literature a distinctive and enduring constituent of human cultures. Such an approach will insist on close readings and cultural contexts, yet within a frame provided by the insights of the cognitive sciences. During my residency at the IEA, I shall be focusing primarily on the possibilities afforded by new directions in cognitive archaeology and anthropology. As artefacts, literary works belong to a class of special preservable objects imbued with cultural and genealogical memories. They are above all cognitive artefacts: they carry complex interweavings of thought, feeling, counterfactual imagination, embodied experience. Since they are fashioned with long-term use in mind, this cognitive activity becomes available to others who may be far removed in time and space. Like human cognition itself, they are characteristically supple and adaptable, lending themselves to various forms of translation and repurposing. They thus offer themselves for consideration as paradigms of cognitive behaviour, modelling its peculiar constraints and above all its possibilities: they test the limits of what it means to inhabit the human ecology.