Prosthetic minds
: representations of consciousness in contemporary British fiction

  • Nicholas Lavery

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In recent years, several related developments have altered our understanding of consciousness and the mind, including the increasing role of technology in the environment, advances in cognitive science, neuroscience and artificial intelligence, and the rise to cultural prominence of third culture texts, non-fiction which explains advances in science and technology to a non-specialist audience. Narrationism, a position grounded in cognitive science but that defines the conscious mind as a form of narrative has emerged as a result. Several authors of contemporary British fiction have responded to each of these shifts. However, what links the work of four of these authors – Tom McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Will Self and Ali Smith - is not narrationism, but a rejection of it in favour of a close attention to consciousness. This thesis reads two novels each by these four authors, with a focus on the influence of ideas originating in cognitive science via third culture texts. The thesis argues that the influence of cognitive science on the contemporary British novel is expressed in a set of formal innovations that together form the basis of a model of an alternative to the computational and narrational models, grounded in the operations of consciousness and of extended, technological prostheses. Building on interdisciplinary research, it argues that the mind can be understood in terms of the operations of four distinct ‘technical systems’, each of which is derived from an aspect of cognitive science, linked with a of technology, and expressed in the novel through a particular formal innovation, each of which forms the basis of one chapter. The thesis begins by surveying the use of metaphors for the mind in its primary text, and ends by developing these metaphors, along with the four technical systems, into a new alternative understanding of the mind which combines the insights of cognitive science and those of literary fiction
    Date of Award10 Dec 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorKevin McCarron (Supervisor) & Sebastian Groes (Supervisor)

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