Literary Universals Workshop

Patrick Hogan, Arnab Roy, and Severi Luoto organized the Literary Universals Workshop in May.

Literary universals include properties and structures ranging, for example, from genre patterns through metaphor and imagery, and from ethical or political themes through formal features of prosody. Technically, literary universals are features of literary works that recur across unrelated literary traditions with greater frequency than would be predicted by chance. Traditions are unrelated if they are distinct in their sources and have not influenced each other through interaction, at least not with respect to the feature under consideration. Thus, early Chinese and early European poetry count as unrelated by this definition, but Latin New Comedy and English Renaissance comedy would not count as unrelated. (For further discussion, see “What Are Literary Universals?“)

Though the study of literary universals was dormant for some time, developments in cognitive and affective science have revived the study of cross-cultural literary patterns, enabling new insights into their nature and origins. Moreover, the study of such patterns holds promise for contributing to our understanding of human cognition and emotion, thus cognitive and affective science themselves.

This one-day workshop explored topics in the study of literary universals. For information on speakers and topics, please consult the program.