Stephanie Kinzinger, “Embodied Cognition in Edgar Allan Poe: Eureka’s Cosmology, Dupin’s Intuition” (pp. 124–144)

This essay argues that Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka (1848) anticipates contemporary cognitive science’s theories of embodied cognition, particularly the notion that individuals’ minds and bodies are inextricable from their environments. Eureka’s cosmology of environmental entanglement, furthermore, surprisingly elucidates detective Auguste Dupin’s uncanny “intuitive” knowledge, as imbrication with cosmic processes affords limited, temporary access to extrapersonal knowledge. Dupin, I contend, capitalizes on the interconnectedness of mind and body, self and environment to attune himself to others, and in the process enacts a precursive version of “social mirroring.” However, along with the enabling possibilities inherent in such interconnectedness, Poe also illuminates its ontological dangers, as Dupin when intuiting transforms into a semi-abstracted self and loses some of his discrete individuality—without going as far as Poe’s mesmerists, whose complete opening to the universe’s extrapersonal forces leads to their annihilation as individual beings. I argue that such dangers shadow not only nineteenth-century transcendentalism’s cosmic egotism but also twenty-first-century cognitive science’s therapeutic agenda.

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