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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

George Eliot and the Victorian Extended Mind

27th February 2019, 17:30 to 19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Peter Garratt

Join the next Inventions of the Text seminar, where Dr Peter Garratt will show how modern cognitive theories can cast light on George Eliot's own interpretation of the mind in the Victorian period.

Where does the mind stop and the rest of the world begin? This questionand the reply that thinking ain't all in the headis posed today by proponents of the 'extended mind' account of human cognition. This is the idea that aspects of body and environment supplement, or realise, thought in various important ways, in contrast to a purely inward notion of mind. This may appear obvious, yet scientific and medical invitations to regard the brain as the true site of cognitive action remain compelling, and include fMRI scanning today and phrenology and faculty psychology in the nineteenth century. Less understood is the history of the extended or distributed mind. Focusing on George Eliot, and exploring aspects of nineteenth-century thought, my talk seeks to recover some of that history. Mid-Victorian writing and culture did not always think of the mind as sealed hermetically in the head, a point I'll develop in relation to Eliot's fiction and non-fiction, showing how she probes and tests some defining claims of 4E cognitive theories (4E referring to embodied, embedded, enactive and extended accounts of mind) before reflecting on their relevance to Eliot's realism.

The seminar will be followed by drinks in The Victoria Inn and the option of dinner at Ristorante Capriccio. If you would like to join us for dinner, please contact us at

Contact for more information about this event.


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