Behaviorism and literary modernity, 1913-2009

Joshua Gang
2012
Behaviorism and Literary Modernity, 1913-2009" constructs a history of twentiethcentury literature by examining how writers incorporated behaviorism's arguments against consciousness into discussions of aesthetics, subjectivity, and empire. Skeptical of introspective knowledge, behaviorist thinkers argued that only external behaviorsand not mental states-could be known empirically. This paradigm not only dominated twentieth-century psychology and philosophy but also made crucial, if
more » ... , contributions to modern literature. Examining how behaviorism circulated and competed against other psychological doctrines, this dissertation substantially alters the idea of modernism as a "turn inward." Instead, I argue that modernism comprised an intense debate about the nature of such interiority and about the relationship of internal mental states to external aesthetic forms. Where some modernists said that literary forms offered unique access to mental states, others came to understand form itself as a behavior with iii no necessary ties to consciousness. Competing with explanations offered by psychoanalysis, structuralism, and cognitive science, behaviorism was at the heart of this debate-as well as others about the nature of subjectivity, agency, and language. Writers skeptical of depth psychology found through behaviorism new models of aesthetic form and political action that seemingly circumvented the problems of self-knowledge and other minds. Bringing together analyses of the New Critics, Samuel Beckett, Djuna Barnes, Bertolt Brecht, Richard Wright and JM Coetzee, this dissertation demonstrates how behaviorism changed literary thinking across the globe and allows new insights into the psychological dimensions of aesthetic form, critical interpretation, and globalization. iv Contents. Abstract of the Dissertation ii Dedication v
doi:10.7282/t3xp73p7 fatcat:kc2hndbqoraxrltx3nz7qd36va