The tripartite structure of the volume reflects a more ambitious conception of what cognitive approaches to literature are and could be than is usually encountered, and thus aims both to map out and to advance the field. The first section corresponds to what most people think of as "cognitive poetics" or "cognitive literary studies": the study of literature by literary scholars drawing on cognitive-scientific methods, findings, and/or debates to yield insights into literature.
The second section demonstrates that literary scholars needn't only make use of cognitive science to study literature, but can also, in a reciprocally interdisciplinary manner, use a cognitively informed perspective on literature to offer benefits back to the cognitive sciences.
Finally, the third section, "literature in cognitive science", showcases some of the ways in which literature can be a stimulating object of study and a fertile testing ground for theories and models, not only to literary scholars but also to cognitive scientists, who here engage with some key questions in cognitive literary studies with the benefit of their in-depth scientific knowledge and training.
The book received a positive review by Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University: "Cognitive literary science is a tremendously exciting new endeavor. For cognitive scientists it presents fantastically rich set of phenomena to explain, and stringent tests of the explanatory reach of their theories. For literary scholars it offers a cornucopia of new ideas about the expressive power of language and the nature of memory, consciousness, mind-reading, narrative, and conflict. For these and other fields, it promises intellectual excitement, a progressive agenda, and an appeal to a new generation of young scholars. This volume represents much of the best work in this new frontier, and could mark a turning point in our understanding of the relationship of literature to human nature."