One of the things I didn’t plan for when I finished my doctorate in late November was taking such an extended break from active participation in social media. True, my defense landed right on top of the end of our fall quarter, and I plunged head-long into an extended post-defense bout of grading, which rolled directly into an early December trip back to Minnesota to visit family, so I figured that I would be returning to my drafts ‘n’ such during the Christmas season directly. Oh, how I have misunderestimated the holidays!

I had intended to start the New Year off by polishing up one of the drafts that I’ve been outlining, but now the 2012 Modern Language Association convention is upon me, and I’ve decided the better part of valor will be to return in earnest next week. I’m excited for the opportunity to catch up with friends both old and new, and I’m also excited about the news that the Cognitive Approaches to Literature discussion group has been approved for full division status, starting in 2013. One of the most gratifying things about conferencing over the past couple of years has been experiencing the growing interest and support that cognitive approaches to literary scholarship are receiving in certain quarters. At the 2011 Shakespeare Association convention last April, I encountered many folks, from graduate students through academic powerhouses, who had one of two reactions: 1) “I have a colleague who is working with cognitive science in his/her new research project, and I’m really intrigued by all of the possibilities — tell me about your project,” or 2) “That seems to really be gathering momentum right now; Journal X just published a special section on cognitive science and literature, you should try submitting some work there, I hear they’re interested in more.” Although skeptics remain, it seems to me that more and more scholars are welcoming cognitive approaches into the critical toolset, as it were, and are eager to see what the results are. I’m looking forward to seeing what the MLA presentations have to offer on the subject!

But no matter what, I’m itching to dig back in to writing and posting once our winter term is up and running. Christmas brought me a whole score of great books, from Steven Pinker’s latest, The Better Angels of Our Nature, to Alva Noe’s Out of Our Heads, Richard Strier’s The Unrepentant Renaissance and Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve. The book I’m most eager to dig into, however, is Andrew Hiscock’s Reading Memory in Early Modern Literature. The use of memory — particularly memory of personal experience, ala Montaigne and others — is an element of great interest to me, particularly as it effectively dismantles any notions of identity as pure social construction, while simultaneously offering a fodder for researching pre-Cartesian theories of cognition and consciousness. In short, I think 2012 holds a lot of promise, and I’m eager to see how the burgeoning relationship between cognitive science and literary scholarship continues to develop!