Choice: review of The Literary Mind
Return to main page | Excerpt from The Literary Mind | Home page: Mark Turner

Douglas Lane Patey
Professor of English, Smith College.

June 1997, page 1656.

A literary scholar trained also in theoretical linguistics and cognitive science, Turner provides a deeply thoughtful meditation on the impulse "to story" and "to parable" - i.e., to find meaning in experience by narrating it. Similar arguments have been mounted by "dramaturgical sociologists" such as Erving Goffman, and by historically minded philosophers like Alasdair MacIntyre; Turner goes beyond these thinkers in arguing that "narrativization" is fundamental to rationality itself, indeed that it precedes and shapes (rather than, as linguists such as Chomsky argue, being shaped by) grammar and the impulse to language. Among this book's greatest strengths are its detailed discussions of both visual and verbal examples, drawn from Proust and the Thousand and One Nights; news articles; familiar iconology (such as pictures of the Grim Reaper); and of how narrative processes that might be thought merely "literary" are essential to ordinary processes of constructing a sense of location in space and time. Throughout, Turner manages his complex argument in clear, fluent prose entirely accessible to undergraduate as well as more advanced readers.