Abstract Details

Inner Speech and Autobiographical Memory in Selected Literary Works  Olga Colbert (World Languages and Literature, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX )   P1

The purpose of my work is to apply the latest research on inner speech and autobiographical memory, particularly the work or Charles Fernyhough, to the analysis of four literary works ranging from a Seventeenth-century poem to recent Twenty-First-century novels. Current research on inner speech has been successfully used to elucidate the mental processes related to the experience of reading. The poetic voice in Quevedo's poem "From the Tower" is "having conversations with deceased men" and "listening with his eyes to the (voices of) the dead." The subjective self who speaks in the first person in the poem is in fact reading. The poem explores beautifully the experience of reading as an engagement with words and ideas that come to us as voices of people no longer living. On the other hand, Julio Cortazar's famous short story entitled "Continuidad de los parques/Continuity of Parks" (1964), explores in depth the immersive quality of reading. In it, the protagonist becomes so immersed in reading a novel that he unknowingly becomes a part of the text he is reading, to the point that at the story's end he is about to be assassinated by one of the novel's characters while reading in his favorite chair. Juan Jose Millas complex new novel, La vida a ratos/Life in Intervals (2019), offers a thorough exploration of the protagonist's states of consciousness. Multiple aspects of inner speech are explored in this novel, with particular attention paid to daydreaming and musings of the mind. Dreaming and reading are also explored. Antonio Munoz Molina's novel Tus pasos en la escalera (2019) is constructed solely of the narrator's inner world. The only access the reader has to other characters or events is through the narrator's own mind. When the workings of his mind reveal itself as faulty as the novel progresses, this is disconcerting to the reader, resulting on a compelling reflection on autobiographical memory and its limits. The profession of the narrator's spouse, a neuroscientist, allows for a fair amount of scientific information and recent theories on the brain embedded in the text, an oblique metacommentary on the mental processes being unveiled in front of the puzzled reader. In addition to Fernyhough's work, the research of other neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists such as Lev Vygotysky, Helene Loevenbruck, Monica Baciu, Peter Carruthers, and others will also be considered. The larger context of my work is an attempt to reclaim the role of literature in the exploration of consciousness.