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Picture of Peter Pan and the Mind of J. M. Barrie

Peter Pan and the Mind of J. M. Barrie

An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness

Author(s): Rosalind Ridley

Book Description

What is Peter Pan all about? Many of us realise that there is a bit more to the stories than a simple fantasy about flying away to a wonderful place in which to play, and that there is something psychologically rather dark about the events in the stories. But J. M. Barrie’s work has not previously been considered from the perspective of either the science of his time, or the insights of modern cognitive psychology. This book explores the texts of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) and Peter and Wendy (1911), and argues that Barrie describes the limited mental abilities of infants and animals in order to illuminate the structure of human adult cognition. Barrie had a well-informed, post-Darwinian perspective on the biological origins of human behaviour. The idea that human consciousness, cognition, culture and sense of moral responsibility could have origins in animal behaviour was deeply shocking to the nineteenth century intelligentsia, and remains controversial in some sections of academia even today. Barrie’s work contains many insights into what is now referred to as mental representation and theory of mind, areas of cognitive psychology that have been examined scientifically only in the last few decades. Barrie also reflects on the nature of consciousness in a way that parallels modern interests. As books with a complex scientific undercurrent, Barrie’s Peter Pan stories rank alongside Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass, which engage with complex issues of mathematics and logic, and Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, which explores the implications of evolution for human society.

Hardback

ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-9107-3
ISBN-10: 1-4438-9107-X
Date of Publication: 01/07/2016
Pages / Size: 200 / A5
Price: £47.99
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Biography

Rosalind Ridley, MA, ScD, is a neuroscientist who spent many years working for the Medical Research Council in London and Cambridge. She is also a retired Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. Her work was concerned with understanding the relationship between brain activity and cognition, and its primary purpose was to develop medical treatments for psychological and neurological illnesses, which, in itself, required consideration of the relationship between brain, experience and behaviour, the nature and purpose of consciousness and a broad understanding of biology and evolution. These themes can be found embedded in the works of J. M. Barrie and are explored extensively in this book about Peter Pan.
"The description of Barrie and his life is fascinating (in a somewhat depressing sense), as is Ridley’s account of Barrie’s friendships with prepubertal boys, which were considered unproblematic at the time, and they only became the topic of academic (and nonacademic) discourse much later in the twentieth century. The bulk—and most interesting—part of the book is not about the person Barrie, though. The thesis that Ridley sets out to prove is that Barrie was ahead of his time concerning the psychological insights in the Peter Pan books. [...] All in all, I much enjoyed reading this book. The, at first impression, quirky examples that Barrie gives, combined with the story of his own shattered life, have remained with me since reading the book, and I suspect they will do so for a long time to come."

Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-9510-1
ISBN-10: 1-4438-9510-5
Date of Publication: 01/10/2017
Pages / Size: 205 / A5
Price: £34.99
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