Angus Fletcher, Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature, with James Pawelski
This “fascinating” (Malcolm Gladwell) examination of literary inventions through the ages, from ancient Mesopotamia to Elena Ferrante, shows how writers have created technical breakthroughs—rivaling scientific inventions and engineering enhancements to the human heart and mind.
Literature is a technology like any other. And the writers we revere—from Homer and Shakespeare to Austen and others—each made a unique technical breakthrough that can be viewed as both a narrative and a neuroscientific advancement. Literature’s great invention was to address problems we could not solve: not how to start a fire or build a boat, but how to live and love; how to maintain courage in the face of death; how to account for the fact that we exist at all.
Wonderworks reviews the blueprints for twenty-five of the most significant developments in the history of literature. These inventions can be scientifically shown to alleviate grief, trauma, loneliness, anxiety, numbness, depression, pessimism, and ennui, while sparking creativity, courage, love, empathy, hope, joy, and positive change. They can be found throughout literature—from ancient Chinese lyrics to Shakespeare’s plays, poetry to nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and crime novels to slave narratives.
A “refreshing and remarkable” (Jay Parini) exploration of the new literary field of story science, Wonderworks teaches you everything you wish you learned in your English class, and “contains many instances of critical insight.” (The New York Times).
Angus Fletcher is a professor of story science at Ohio State’s Project Narrative, the world’s leading academic think tank for the study of stories. He has dual degrees in neuroscience and literature, received his PhD from Yale, taught Shakespeare at Stanford, and has published two books and dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles on the scientific workings of novels, poetry, film, and theater. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has done story consulting for projects for Sony, Disney, the BBC, Amazon, PBS, and Universal and is the author/presenter of the Audible/Great Courses Guide to Screenwriting.
James O. Pawelski, PhD, is Director of Education and Senior Scholar in the Positive Psychology Center and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Having earned a doctorate in philosophy, he is the author of The Dynamic Individualism of William James and of articles on the history of philosophy and its application to human development. He has served as editor of the philosophy section of the Oxford Handbook of Happiness, co-editor of The Eudaimonic Turn: Well-Being in Literary Studies, co-editor of On Human Flourishing: A Poetry Anthology, and co-author (with his wife Suzann Pileggi Pawelski) of Happy Together: Using the Science of Positive Psychology to Build Love That Lasts.
Interested but not yet ready to register? Get a reminder closer to the date, space permitting.
To register, complete the form below. (If you're a Library member, please log in first.) Please click the Save Registration button only once; the system may take a moment to confirm your registration. With questions or problems related to registration, contact the Events Office.