This article argues that it is productive to combine cognitive literary studies and postcolonial criticism, and that this constitutes a new formalist approach. Drawing on insights from cognitive science, it describes how Antjie Krog’s 1998 book Country of My Skull facilitates processes of empathetic engagement and identification. It proposes that postcolonial writing, because it is often particularly experimental, is a crucial area of focus for cognitive literary studies, inviting elaboration of existing models about the phenomenology of reading. Moreover, the article argues that attention to the way narrative strategies are linked to cognitive processes allows us to form scientifically grounded and contextually situated hypotheses about how postcolonial texts function as agents in their socio-historical contexts, and to show how their formal, aesthetic dimension is crucial for their ethical, critical, and political force.
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