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Angus Fletcher

A practitioner of story science, Angus Fletcher has dual degrees in neuroscience (BS, University of Michigan) and literature (PhD, Yale). His research employs a mix of laboratory experiment, literary history and rhetorical theory to explore the psychological effects—cognitive, behavioral, therapeutic—of different narrative technologies.

His most recent book, Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (Simon & Schuster, 2021) details the mental health and wellbeing benefits of over two dozen literary breakthroughs from ancient Sumer to the present day. It has been formally endorsed by medical and humanities faculty at Yale, Stanford, Oxford and Cambridge, and has been described by Dr. Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, as the work of a “polymath” who combines “a profound knowledge of world literature” with “a deep knowledge of modern psychology and of neuroscience.”

His previous scholarly book, Comic Democracies: From Ancient Athens to the American Republic (Johns Hopkins, 2016) traces a half-dozen comic innovations—found in works ranging from Greek comedy, to Shakespeare’s history plays, to the Declaration of Independence, to Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist speeches—that nurture pluralism, the pursuit of happiness, eccentric governance and other physical behaviors that have been empirically shown to promote democratic practice.

Angus has published articles in Critical Inquiry, Poetics Today, New Literary History and dozens of other academic journals. His most recent work anatomizes the fundamental difference between computer AI and human narrative intelligence; a sample can be found in his 2021 proof in Narrative of why computers will never be able to read (or write) novels.

He is currently at work on two book projects. The first offers a tour of narrative intelligence, including 10 of its neural powers; the second explores how humanities teaching and research can be innovated to support the needs of the twenty-first century by exchanging critical thinking, textual interpretation and other tools of symbolic logic for narrative modes of thinking more intuitive to human brains.

Because of his interest in narrative innovation, Angus has worked for over a decade as a consultant for film and television producers at Disney, Sony, the BBC, Amazon and PBS, and is the author-presenter of the Audible/Great Courses guide The Art of Story. He is currently developing television series for David Stern and Scott of Playground and Nne Ebong of WIIP.

His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the New York Academy of Medicine and others.

Current Project

  • The Plot to Innovate the Humanities