Cognitive Critical and Cultural Theory is a research programme initiated by Christa Knellwolf King that applies the premises of recent neuroscientific studies to the interpretation of literature and culture.  

Cognitive research in the humanities has dramatically challenged the premises of 20th-century critical and cultural theory. Neuroscientific research of the 1990s re-defined the emotions as essentially rational means of evaluating experience and recent cognitive studies are redefining the nature of social exchanges. These developments have profoung implications on our understanding of literature, art and culture.

Literature and Intercultural Dialogue

Literature as a Forum for Cross-Cultural Dialogue

There is an urgent need for dialogues across cultural and national boundaries. But how do we deal with the problem that we know far too little about the culture of communities that share the same space, or what is even worse, how do we get away from preconceived opinions and prejudices? Literature here serves as a valuable repository of stories and descriptions of how people think and interact. Talking about literary stories, and explaining how they speak to us, can open up new ways of understanding each other. This is because fictional texts are modelled on historical experience but they are also different from "reality". This explains why they provide excellent opportunities for the discussion of what is important to the communities whose world is represented in literary narratives, poems and plays.

If we want to use literature as a point of reference in intercultural dialogue, we need to outline new habits of reading. We need to learn to use literature as a means of asking questions and of listening to what others might try to answer them.

Emotion and the Formation of Imperial Mentalities

The aim of this monograph is to develop a cognitive methodology in orderr to explain how imperial ideology addressed and persuaded its audiences, using as a case study the voyaging accounts published during the main age of naval exploration (c. 1770-1820).

Christa Knellwolf King is an Assoc. Professor of English literature at Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.

She has published two monographs: Representations of the Feminine in the Poetry of Alexander Pope (Manchester UP, 1998), and Faustus and the Promises of the New Science: (Ashgate, 2008), as well as edited several collections of essays, including The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 9 (CUP, 2001), Exoticism and the Culture of Exploration (Duke UP, 2003) The Enlightenment World (Routledge 2004), Frankenstein's Science (Ashgate, 2009), and Stories of Empire (wvt, 2009). Currently she is completing a study of the mentalities that characterise imperial voyaging accounts.

Email Contact:

  • christa.knellwolf.king (at)
  • cknellwolf (at)

Members of the team:

  • Prof. Dr. Margarete Rubik (University of Vienna): co-organiser of several conferences at the University of Vienna and co-editor of the book Stories of Empire (2009)
  • Gabriele Detschmann (PhD student at the University of Vienna) working on the topic: "Ideas of Self-Realisation in Selected Prose Fiction by Contemporary Muslim Women Writers"
  • Dr. Sofia Castiglioni Reich (Scholar at the University of Vienna) with a special interest in architecture as a means for the representation of cultural mentalities
  • Karina Reiter (MA Student at the University of Vienna) working on the topic: "Spatial Palimpsests: Memory, Space and Identity in Selected Novels by Abdulrazak Gurnah"
  • 2015: Christa Knellwolf King, “Cognitive Critical and Cultural Theory,” The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality, gen. ed. Nancy Naples, in print.
  • 2015: Christa Knellwolf King, “Une Tempête, Aimé Césaire’s Subversion of the Imperial Scripts of Shakespeare’s Tempest,” in: Werner Huber and Elke Mettinger-Schartmann (eds.), Drama, Cognition and Interiority, Berlin: Peter Lang, in print.
  • 2015: Christa Knellwolf King, “The Shadows of the Soul: Adelbert von Chamisso’s ‘Peter Schlemihl’ and the Quest for the Self,” in: Lorna Fitzsimmons, (ed.), Faust Adaptations from Marlowe to Aboudoma and Markland, Purdue University Press, in print.
  • 2009: Stories of Empire: Narrative Strategies for the Legitimation of an Imperial World Order, eds. Christa Knellwolf King and Margarete Rubik, Trier: WVT.

Profile of Christa Knellwolf King as Honorary Professor at University of Queensland:

Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts:

AHRC Network Cognitive Futures in the Humanities: