Our March Book of the Month is Peter Pan and the Mind of J. M. Barrie: An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness by Rosalind Ridley.
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’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.
To find out more, please click here to read a sample extract and contents page.
We are offering all of our readers a generous 60% discount on this best-selling title. To redeem your discount, please enter the promotional code BOMMAR17 during checkout. Please note that this is a time-limited offer that will expire on2nd April 2017.
Please see below for highlights of the praise this book has been receiving:
“Neuroscientist Rosalind Ridley, of Newnham College in Cambridge, claims in the just-published Peter Pan and the Mind of JM Barrie that the author’s work identifies key stages of child development. […] In her book, she shows how the narrative of Peter Pan works on different levels. It is a coming-of-age story, a fantasy for children and adults, and the myth of a golden age, but was also invented by the author “essentially for himself in order to explore and perhaps make some sense of his own emotional difficulties, to investigate the interplay of the world of facts and the world of the imagination and to rediscover the heightened experiences of infancy”.”
—Alison Flood, The Guardian (2nd August 2016)
“In recent years, all the ‘Peter Pan’ texts have been subjected to biographical and psychoanalytical interpretations, but in this book Rosalind Ridley’s original contribution is to analyse the texts to demonstrate Barrie’s knowledge and use of scientific ideas. Barrie was acquainted with men of science and the ideas current at the beginning of the twentieth century. His stories of ‘Peter Pan’ are fictive investigations of the nature of consciousness and of the imagination, sometimes anticipating what scientists have later come to realise. Ridley’s book is a delight to read; the examples she gives are compelling and entirely clear to a reader who has not themselves a scientific background. I recommend it whole-heartedly both to lovers of literature and science.”
—Dr Pam Hirsch, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
“Until recently, my knowledge of J. M. Barrie was limited to vague memories of seeing the pantomime of Peter Pan as a child. In this wonderful book, Rosalind Ridley reveals how much more there is to Barrie and his creation. Her analysis of the various versions of the story that preceded the play reveals that Barrie was extremely knowledgeable about the scientific developments of his time. Furthermore, many of his ideas can be found in scientific accounts of the brain and the mind that did not appear until several decades later. This accessible book not only provides a fresh insight into the mind of Barrie and a novel introduction to current neuropsychology, but also reminds us of the close ties between creativity in science and in literature.”
—Professor Chris Frith FRS FBA, Institute of Philosophy, University of London
“In Peter Pan and the Mind of J M Barrie: An Exploration of Cognition and Consciousness, neuroscientist Dr Rosalind Ridley unpacks the magic and oddity of the tales that have captivated audiences for generations. In doing so through the lens of her own expertise, she reveals that Barrie had an almost uncanny grasp of human cognitive development four to eight decades before psychologists began to work on similar questions about the way we develop thinking and reasoning skills.”
—University of Cambridge website (3rd August 2016)
“Throughout her sensitive and original readings of these two books, Ridley offers asides that go to the heart of current debates about “the hard problem” of consciousness, Turing’s test for whether a computer has intelligence, and whether some avian behavior demonstrates theory of mind.”
—Dr Terri Apter, Newnham College, Cambridge