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Fiction and Other Minds
“Re-Conceiving Personhood: Cognitive Readings of Mystical Texts”
Gavin Flood (Oxford): “The Goddesses of the Body: an evolutionary and phenomenological reading”
An early medieval Sanskrit hymn to the circle of deities located in the body, a text from the religion of Shiva, describes the body as enlivened by a series of goddesses who govern the senses. This talk re-described the hymn in terms drawn firstly from phenomenology and secondly from evolutionary social neuroscience. This hymn raises questions about conceptions of person and suggests ways in which religious practices draw on social cognition in the process of self-overcoming.
Ufuk Özturk (Oxford): “De-narrating the narrative of self: The experience of the ‘passing away of self’ (fanā) and storytelling in the poems of Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. ca. 1220)”
“De-narrating the narrative of self: The experience of the ‘passing away of self’ (fanā) and storytelling in the poems of Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. ca. 1220)”: Storytelling is central to Sufi literature, especially to Farīd al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (d. ca. 1220) whose poetic output contains nearly a thousand captivating narratives. This talk examined the ways in which narratives were used in didactic Sufi literature, focussing on the narrative types and techniques displayed in the three major allegorical poems of ʿAṭṭār, the Divine Book, the Book of Affliction, and the Conference of the Birds. However, for ʿAṭṭār, narratives appear to be more than just illustrative literary devices embellishing his didactic message and seem to play a major role in achieving his goal of experiencing the passing away of self (fanā). Given the significance of narration in the process of the construction of the self (e.g., Bruner), this talk attempted to draw a link between ʿAṭṭār’s narrative techniques and the possibility of an intended interruption or even suspension of the processes of narrating the self.