Fiction and Other Minds: Place and Memory: The Aesthetics of Constructing the Past

This term’s Fiction and Other Minds seminar will be hosting Prof John Sutton to discuss the topic of Place and Memory: The Aesthetics of Constructing the Past.


Traces of many past events are sometimes layered or superposed, in brain, body, and world alike. This is one reason that relations between place and memory are complex and often hard to manage, as we access many past events and coexisting emotions. Cognitive philosophy, memory studies, and the arts alike are increasingly concerned with the difficulties of engaging appropriately with places with multiple or difficult pasts. In this paper, Sutton sketches a provisional aesthetics of superposition and urban palimpsests: case studies include Norman Klein's multimedia fiction Bleeding Through: Layers of Los Angeles, Janet Cardiff's site-specific urban audio walks, and William Kentridge's short films.

John Sutton is Leverhulme International Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Stirling, and in 2022–2023 was a fellow at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study. His work addresses memory, skill, and collaboration, and integrates conceptual, experimental, and ethnographic methods. With Kath Bicknell, he coedited Collaborative Embodied Performance: Ecologies of Skill (Bloomsbury, 2022). Topics of his recent papers include joint expertise, creativity in film-making, and cognitive change in the Neolithic period.


The seminar is convened by Professor Ben Morgan ( Dr Naomi Rokotnitz (

As always, the talk will be followed by drinks for all attendees.


About the Seminar Series: The Fiction and Other Minds seminar series showcases current research in the Cognitive Humanities by hosting scholars working at the interface between literary studies, visual and performance art, phenomenology, philosophy, and the cognitive sciences. The seminars explore how features investigated by the cognitive sciences can be tested and expanded across different cultural contexts, media, and artistic genres. In particular, we explore how literary texts often challenge and differentiate theoretical insights—especially through their attention to the culturally situated aspects of cognition—and how cognitively informed approaches to literature can deepen our understanding of the embodied and affective processes that underpin meaning-making, including literary reading. For more information, please see the Fiction and Other Minds research strand page.