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

Using Literature as a Means of Improving Cross-Cultural Understanding

There is an urgent need for dialogues across cultural and national boundaries. Literature can open up new ways of talking to each other because it provides excellent opportunities for the discussion of what is important to the communities whose world is represented in stories, poems, plays and other forms of narrative.

If we want to use literature as a point of reference in intercultural dialogue, we need to develop new approaches to reading. We need to learn to use literature as a conduit for discovering the culturally specific human values which are reflected by literary narratives.

These ideas are part of an initiative that is in the process of forming. Watch this space.

Emotion and the Formation of Imperial Mentalities

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

Christa Knellwolf King held appointments as Guest Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Vienna and is about to take up a position at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman. She is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland. She has published two monographs on early modern literature: 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 several collections of essays, including The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 9 (CUP, 2001), The Enlightenment World (Routledge 2004), Frankenstein's Science (Ashgate, 2009) and Stories of Empire (wvt, 2009). Currently she is writing up the results of her FWF project “Emotion and the Foundation of Imperial Mentalities” (see above) in the form of a book.


Email: christa.knellwolf (at)

Tel: 01-427742405

Further members of the team in the Institute for English and American Studies, University of Vienna:

  • 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.

University of Vienna:

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: