Body and Tool: An Enactive Approach to Perceptual Entrainment in Fiction and Science Fiction
by Joshua, Judith, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2012, 319 pages;
Body and Tool explores representations of perception in fiction, science fiction, and science fiction film by using two key ideas from cognitive science: a) perception is the embodied exploration of the environment, and b) tool use impacts perception. I argue that it is crucial to examine fictional representations of perception at the body-tool interface . My focus on tool use counters the pervasive view in both fiction and literary criticism that perception is a function of "brain-processing"--our current version of the Cartesian mind/body split. I also argue that the less we examine the tool as mediator of perception, the greater the ideological power of the tool over us. Fiction and film offer copious evidence of the selective filtering of perception through tool use; by making tool-interaction my object of study, I demonstrate the embodied nature of cognition and probe what is foreclosed when tools themselves are used to amplify the belief in the mind/body split. Beginning with Samuel Richardson's canny use of the letter in his epistolary novel, Clarissa , I track the under-examined body-tool interface to show how novelists use human-tool interactions to demonstrate the limitations of overreliance on information purveyed by tools.