Angus Fletcher

Angus Fletcher’s research is driven by the pragmatic hypothesis (articulated in the twentieth century by John Dewey and The Chicago School, but extending back through Renaissance and ancient rhetoric) that literary form can serve as a technology for promoting democratic behaviors.

His recent book project, Comic Democracies: Practical Populism from Aristophanes to Denshawai (forthcoming), traces a half-dozen innovations in comic form—from the bait-and-switch style of Machiavelli’s La Mandragola to the Quixotic narrator of Tom Jones—that have been deployed by populist works such as Tom Paine’s Common Sense, The Declaration of Independence, and Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist speeches, to promote pluralism, risk-taking, adaptive imitation, the pursuit of happiness, eccentric governance, and other physical behaviors that have been empirically shown by modern political scientists to promote democratic practice.

His current book project, Thirteen Things that Literature Can Do, identifies thirteen different cognitive effects of literature—wonder, contempt, pity, amusement, horror, solace, curiosity, sympathy, restraint, paranoia, nostalgia, alienation, and belief—and traces the history of their formal development from Homer to Omeros, deriving thirteen simple formula for generating affect that can be used to engineer new literary works (and that can be empirically tested in modern psychology labs).

His articles have appeared in Critical Inquiry, The Journal of Narrative Theory, New Literary History, and over a dozen other academic journals. His first book, Evolving Hamlet, was published by Palgrave.

Because of his interest in the physical effects of literary form, he is collaborating on behavioral and cognitive studies with Professor John Monterosso and The Brain and Creativity Institute at The University of Southern California, and with Professor Kentaro Fujita and The Motivation and Cognitive Science Laboratory at The Ohio State University.

And because of his interest in engineering new works, he is working with filmmakers such as Michael Apted, Bob Shaye, Michael Lynne, and the Philip K. Dick Estate on original narrative projects. For his film-work, he has received the Nicholl Fellowship from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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