Cognitive science and the history of reading

Andrew Elfenbein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Cognitive psychologists studying the reading process have developed a detailed conceptual vocabulary for describing the microprocesses of reading. Modified for the purposes of literary criticism, this vocabulary provides a framework that has been missing from most literary-critical investigations of the history of literate practice. Such concepts as the production of a coherent memory representation, the limitations of working memory span, the relation between online and offline reading processes, the landscape model of comprehension, and the presence of standards of coherence allow for close attention to general patterns in reading and to the ways that individual readers' modify them. The interpretation of Victorian responses to the poetry of Robert Browning provides a case study in the adaptation of cognitive models to the history of reading. Such an adaptation can reveal not only reading strategies used by historical readers but also those fostered by the discipline of literary criticism. (AE)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-502+608
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


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