Patterns of Experience: Pragmatism, Perception, and Cultural Cognition in Modern American Literature

Doctoral Dissertation


Patterns of Experience: Pragmatism, Perception, and Cultural Cognition in Modern American Literature, tracks experience-based forms of mimesis in the writing of Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Ernest Hemingway, and Zora Neale Hurston. It is this project’s contention that these four American writers attend to the interplay among perception, conception, and culture in their narratives, and collectively articulate an anti-foundationalist theory of cognition in which our concepts are anchored in culturally-situated acts of perception. From Melville’s depiction of machine-mediated modes of perception in European navigational practices, to Hurston’s pragmatist epistemology in which her subjective, participatory engagement with Haitian and Jamaican culture is a source of narrative authority and objectivity, Patterns of Experience suggests that how we think is not a transparent process in which ideas get transferred directly from world to body to mind. At the same time, however, my project points to the search for alternative modes of perception and conception that are anchored in the cognitive environments of Thoreau’s Maine Woods and Hemingway’s African Savannah and the Gulf Stream.


Attribute NameValues
Author Aleksandra Hernandez
Contributor Kate Marshall, Committee Member
Contributor Laura Dassow Walls, Research Director
Contributor Nan Z. Da, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline English
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2017-07-07

Submission Date 2017-08-01
  • History of Technology

  • American Pragmatism

  • Hunting and Fishing

  • Embodied and Distributed Cognition

  • Literature and Science

  • Aesthetics and Semiotics

  • Cultural Anthropology

  • American Literature

  • Navigation

  • Perception

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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