Review of Joseph Tabbi's, Cognitive Fictions [Book Review]

Metapsychology 7 (8) (2003)
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In the closing chapter of his recent bestseller The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker attributes what he dislikes in modern literature to the influence of poor empiricist psychology. The modernist ‘denial of human nature’ resulted, Pinker informs us sadly, in the replacement of ‘omniscient narration, structured plots, the orderly introduction of characters, and general readability’ by ‘a stream of consciousness, events presented out of order, baffling characters and causal sequences, subjective and disjointed narration, and difficult prose’ (p.410). And, worse still, ‘in postmodernist literature, authors comment on what they are writing while they are writing it’ (p.411). Pinker doesn’t mention the intense pleasure which rather large numbers of readers find in the novels of Thomas Pynchon or Paul Auster, for example: but I suspect this would be ascribed to a disavowed hunger for status fostered by pretentious and unintelligible critics (compare pp.412-6).
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