We don’t realize it, but forms are all around us—ordering our lives—says Caroline E. Levine, the David and Kathleen Ryan Professor of Humanities in the Department of English, whose work is profiled in this Cornell Resarch story.
“My shift in literary studies was to think of literary and artistic forms as having certain affordances,” she says in the story. “A poetic rhythm can think certain thoughts that a framed picture cannot. The same is true of the terms we use for analyzing our world. If we think of a text as having boundaries—a beginning, a middle, and an end—then we’re thinking of it in a certain way as a whole. But if we think of it as part of a culture, the idea of it being whole doesn’t work anymore. Different conceptual designs produce different kinds of thinking. In my book, I was trying to use these basic formal structures, like the whole, to think about what these forms afford across art objects and social worlds.”