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Durham University

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Dr Marco Bernini

Assistant Professor in Cognitive Literary Studies in the Department of English Studies
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43265
Room number: Room 007, Hallgarth House

Contact Dr Marco Bernini (email at


Before taking up my position as Assistant Professor of Cognitive Literary Studies, I have been a Marie Curie Junior Research Fellow (2012-2014) and a Wellcome Postdoctoral Research Associate (2014-2018) in the Department of English Studies at Durham University. My first postdoctoral appointment was as a IASH fellow at the University of Edinburgh (2011-2012). I am also a core member of the Wellcome Trust interdisciplinary project on auditory-verbal hallucinations ‘Hearing the Voice' at Durham University (2012-2021). I sit in the Steering Committee of the Institute of Medical Humanities. Outside Durham, I have been a member of a project on 'Narrative and Complex Systems' at the University of York (Interdisciplinary Centre for Narrative Studies) and of the 'History of Distributed Cognition' project (2014-2018; University of Edinburgh). I will be co-leading with Ben Alderson-Day (Department of Psychology, Durham) an interdisciplinary IAS Major Project on 'Dreams, Narrative and Liminal Cognition' in 2020-2021 (Durham University).

Research Interests

My research interests are in narrative theory (in particular cognitive narratology), modernist fiction (notably the narrative work of Samuel Beckett) and cognitive sciences. I have mainly worked on how literary narratives portray or, as I have been arguing, properly explore cognitve processes (e.g., levels of consciousness and self, transparency and opacity in self-knowledge and metacognition, memory, mindwandering, inner speech, moods and emotions, embodied and enactive couplings with the environment, hypnagogic and hypopompic transitions, altered and hallucinatory perceptions, dream states). I also worked on an application of the extended mind view to the relationship between writing and authorial intentionality, and on a narrative approach to cognitive theories of complexity and emergence. I have a forhcoming book on Samuel Beckett and cognition (Beckett and the Cognitive Method: Mind, Models, and Exploratory Narratives) with Oxford University Press.

I would welcome PhD proposals on:

  • Narrative Theory
  • Cognitive Narratology
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Literary Modernism
  • Cognitive Processes in the Novel
  • Narrative and the Self
  • Narrative, Emergence and Complexity
  • Narrative, Dreams and Hallucinations


Mind and Narrative (Level 3 Special Topic; Designed and Individually Taught)

How can literary narratives represent or explore the mind? To answer this relatively simple question, we need to undertake a quite complex, interdisciplinary journey to understand what the mind is and what it does in its everyday inner, outer, imaginative, embodied, linguistic, intersubjective, emotional, dreamlike experiences and interactions with the real world. This means first becoming familiar with contemporary cognitive scientific models of the mind and of a variety of cognitive processes, before looking at the ways whereby these have been rendered in, and explored by, literary storyworlds. This Special Topic module therefore will take on a parallel journey into the mind by comparing and contrasting cognitive science with theories of narrative. This is the agenda of the emergent field of cognitive literary studies, to which this module can be considered as an advanced introduction. 

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2018: Durham Research Staff Awards: Joint first prize (together with Ben Alderson-Day, Department of Psychology).


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article


Selected Grants

  • 2020: IAS Major Project Scheme: Co-PI (with Ben Alderson-Day, Department of Psychology) on an interdiscplinary project on "Dreams, Narrative, and Liminal Cognition" (Durham University).
  • 2016: Seedcorn Impact Research Fund: £15000 (co-applicant with Professor Corinne Saunders and Dr Peter Garratt); grant awarded to realise an experimental research-based perfomance of Beckett's Company

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