Literature and Social Justice : Protest Novels, Cognitive Politics, and Schema Criticism
Can reading social protest novels actually produce a more just world? Literature and Social Justice offers a scientifically informed, evidence-based affirmative answer to that crucial question, arguing that literature has the potential—albeit largely unrealized—to produce lasting, socially transformative psychological changes in readers. Moving beyond traditional social criticism in its various forms, including feminist, gender, queer, and postcolonialist approaches, Mark Bracher uses new knowledge concerning the cognitive structures and processes that constitute the psychological roots of social injustice to develop a detailed, systematic critical strategy that he calls “schema criticism,” which can be applied to literature and other discourses to maximize and extend their potential for promoting social justice.
Bracher draws on studies in social cognition, social neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, political psychology, and psychoanalysis to uncover the root cognitive structures that cause misunderstandings among people and give rise to social injustice. Using the novels The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath, and Native Son, he then demonstrates how schema criticism can correct these faulty cognitive structures and enable readers to develop more accurate and empathetic views of those they deem “Other,” as well as become more aware of their own cognitive processes. Calling the book “insightful, erudite, and humane,” Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series coeditor Patrick Colm Hogan says, “This inspiring book should be welcomed by literary critics, political activists, and anyone who cares about social justice.”