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.

Omani Literature and the Study of Intercultural Communication

This project has two aims:

  • To study how (literary) stories describe human encounters: descriptions of close relationships (in the family and the community, among friends and relatives) but also between people from different cultural backgrounds. The aim is to gain a better understanding of the role of literature in building relationships.
  • To apply the results of the theoretical approach to Omani stories (written in English and in Arabic).

The research team has just started to collect Omani stories. Please let us know if you know of interesting works (written and oral; English and Arabic). We are also looking for collaborators. Please get in touch.

The attached file explains that universities should offer programs with a specialisation in English literature because they acquire the skills that are most needed in the job market.

Literature and Intercultural Dialogue

Literature as a Conduit for Cross-Cultural Communication

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 more difficult, how do we get away from preconceived opinions and prejudices? Literature can help us solve this problem: it is not only a valuable repository of stories and descriptions of characters and their communities, but it also shows us how the writer and the characters experience their world. Talking about literary stories, and explaining how they speak to us, can open up new ways of understanding each other. Fictional texts are modelled on historical experience but they are also different from "reality". This is why they open up new approaches to discovering what is important to the communities that are described in fictional narratives, poems and plays.

Public Lecture: Literature and Intercultural Understanding

Date: 6 June 2015

Venue: Institute for African and Asian Studies,University of Vienna

Türkenstrasse 3, 1st floor

For a detailed abstract of the lecture, please open the flyer attached below.

Christa Knellwolf King is an Assoc. Professor of English literature, College of Arts and Social Science, 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:

  • Halima Salim Al-Shukaili (Research Assistant at Sultan Qaboos University)
  • Mazoun Saif Al Riyami (Research Assistant at Sultan Qaboos University)
  • 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 (Researcher at the University of Vienna) with a special interest in architecture as a means for the representation of cultural mentalities
  • 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)
  • Karina Reiter (postgraduate student, University of Vienna) working on the topic: "Spatial Palimpsests: Memory, Space and Identity in Selected Novels by Abdulrazak Gurnah"
  • 2016: Christa Knellwolf King, “Cognitive Critical and Cultural Theory,” The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies, gen. ed. Nancy Naples, in print.
  • 2016: 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, Oct. 2016.
  • 2015: Christa Knellwolf King, “Une Tempête, Aimé Césaire’s Subversion of the Imperial Scripts of Shakespeare’s Tempest,” in: Dramatic Minds, Performance, Cognition and the Representation of Interiority, eds Werner Huber et al., New York: Peter Lang, 135-148.
  • 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:

Profile of Dr. Christa Knellwolf King on Researchgate: