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Distributed Cognition in Enlightenment and Romantic Culture$
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Miranda Anderson, George Rousseau, and Michael Wheeler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474442282

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442282.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 20 May 2022

Distributed Cognition and Women Writers’ Representation of Theatre in Eighteenth-Century England: ‘Thoroughly to unfold the labyrinths of the human mind’

Distributed Cognition and Women Writers’ Representation of Theatre in Eighteenth-Century England: ‘Thoroughly to unfold the labyrinths of the human mind’

Chapter:
(p.170) 10 Distributed Cognition and Women Writers’ Representation of Theatre in Eighteenth-Century England: ‘Thoroughly to unfold the labyrinths of the human mind’
Source:
Distributed Cognition in Enlightenment and Romantic Culture
Author(s):

Ros Ballaster

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474442282.003.0010

Readers in the mid-eighteenth century were increasingly invited to translate their knowledge about the social extension of mind learned in the experience of theatre to ‘new’ prose forms of the periodical and the novel. Women writers in these forms found opportunity to present women as cognitive agents rather than affective vehicles. Four works by women serve to illustrate this case: Eliza Haywood’s The Dramatic Historiographer (1735), Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier’s The Cry: a new dramatic fable (1754), Charlotte Lennox’s Shakespeare Illustrated (1753-4), and Frances Brooke’s The Old Maid (1755-6). These printed prose works invoke memories of performance – the co-presence of the real bodies of audience and actors. But they often do so to claim the superior cognitive experience of the reader’s engagement through print with a fictional persona in the ‘mind’. The prose work is imagined as a repository of socially extended mind for its audience, an opportunity not only to recreate the experience of communal consumption of the artwork which theatre affords, but also to provide a more sophisticated form of narrative scaffolding. Distance and reflection are enabled by the absence of the performer’s body and the judicious authority of a framing narrator.

Keywords:   Periodical, Novel, Theatre, Group mind, Women writers, Prose

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