Abbott, H. Porter

Emeritus, Research Professor


BA, Reed College; PhD, University of Toronto, 1968

Porter Abbott is Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his B.A. from Reed College, and his M.A. & Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.



South Hall 4717


(231) 432-0342


(805) 893-7491


Mailing Address: 

7271 Gills Pier Rd
Northport, MI 49670

English Department, UC Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3170


Literature and the Mind

Research Interests: 

Narrative & narrative theory
19th & 20th-century literature
Literature, cognition, evolution



Articles & Chapters: 

Recent Essays

  • "What it Means to Be Mad: Diagnosis, Narrative, Science, & the DSM," in Robyn Warhol & Zara Dinnen, eds. Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming 2017).
  • “Fiction, Fitness, and Failure,” Poetics Today 37.4 (review article, forthcoming 2016).
  • “Strange Creatures Can Be Animals, too: A Response to Brian Richardson,” Style 50 (forthcoming 2016).
  • "Virginia Woolf and the Re-Invention of the Novel," in James Acheson, ed. Palgrave Casebook on Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse (Palgrave, forthcoming 2015).
  • “How Do We Read What Isn’t There to be Read? Shadow Stories and Permanent Gaps," in Lisa Zunshine, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (Oxford, 2014)
  • "A Question of Leverage: A Response to Alan Palmer's 'Social Minds'," Style 45 (2011)
  • “Reading Intended Meaning Where None is Intended: A Cognitivist Reappraisal of the Implied Author,” Poetics Today 32 (2011)
  • "Time, Narrative, Life, Death, and Text-Type Distinctions: The Example of Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year," Narrative 19 (2011)
  • “Law, Agency, and Unnarratable Action,” Michigan State University Law Review (2009)
  • “Conversion in an Age of Darwinian Gradualism,”Storyworlds 2 (2010)
  • “Garden Paths and Ineffable effects: Abandoning Representation in Literature and Film,” in Toward a Theory of Narrative Acts (University of Texas Press, 2010)
  • “The Legacy of Samuel Beckett: an Anatomy” in A Companion to Samuel Beckett (Blackwell, 2010)
  • “Narrativity,” in Handbook of Narratology (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009)
  • “Unreadable Minds and the Captive Reader,” Style 43:1 (2009)
  • “Immersions in the Cognitive Sublime: The Textual Experience of the Extratextual Unknown in García Márquez and Beckett,” Narrative 17:2 (spring 2009)
  • “Narrative and Emergent Behavior,” Poetics Today 29 (2008)
  • “I Am Not a Philosopher,” in Samuel Becket at 100 (Oxford University Press, 2008)
  • “Story, Plot, and Narration,” in The Cambridge Companion to Narrative (Cambridge, 2007)
  • “The Future of All Narrative Futures,” in The Blackwell Companion to Narrative Theory (Blackwell, 2005)
  • Murphy as Modernist novel” in The Blackwell Modernist Literature and Culture (Blackwell, 2004)
  • “Egregious Omissions: Samuel Beckett and the Theory and Practice of Narrative Gaps,” in The Palgrave Guide to Beckett Studies (Macmillan Palgrave, 2004)
  • “Unnarratable Knowledge: the Difficulty of Understanding Evolution by Natural Selection” in Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences (Stanford: CSLI, 2003)
  • "Humanists, Scientists, & the Cultural Surplus," SubStance 94/95 (March 2001)
  • “Beckett’s Lost Worlds: The Artful Exhaustion of a 19th-Century Genre,” Journal of Beckett Studies 11:1 (spring 2001)
  • "What Do We Mean When We Say "Narrative Literature"? Looking for Answers Across Disciplinary Borders," Style 34:2 (summer 2000)
  • "The Evolutionary Origins of the Storied Mind: Modeling the Prehistory of Narrative Consciousness and its Discontents," Narrative 8:3 (October 2000)
  • "Beckett's Lawlessness: Evolutionary Psychology & Genre," Samuel Beckett Today/Ajourd'hui (2000)
  • "Samuel Beckett & the Arts of Time: Painting, Music, Narrative" in Samuel Beckett & the Arts (Garland, 1999)
  • "Extratextual Intelligence," New Literary History 28:4 (Fall 1997)
  • "Old Virginia and the Night Writer: The Origins of Woolf's Narrative Meander" in Inscribing the Daily: Critical Essays on Women's Diaries (University of Massachusetts Press, 1996)
  • "Character and Modernism: Reading Woolf Writing Woolf" New Literary History 24:2 (1993)
  • "Beginning Again: The Post-Narrative Art of Texts for Nothing and How It Is" in The Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (Cambridge, 1993)
  • "Writing and Conversion: Conrad's Modernist Autography," Yale Journal of Criticism 5:3 (1992)

Selected Earlier Articles

  • “Autobiography, Autography, Fiction: Toward a Taxonomy of Literary Categories,” New Literary History 19 (1988)
  • “The Harpooned Notebook: Malone Dies and the Conventions of Intercalated Narrative,” in Samuel Beckett: Humanistic Perspectives (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1983)
  • “Letters to the Self: the Cloistered Writer in Nonretrospective Fiction,” PMLA 95 (January 1980)
  • “Saul Bellow and the ‘Lost Cause’ of Fiction,” Novel 13 (spring 1980)
  • “Organic Form in the Autobiography of a Convert: the Example of Malcolm X,” CLA Journal 23 (December 1979)



Forthcoming Projects: 

  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, 3rd edition
  • Book: Darwinian Gradualism and Modernist Saltation: Modeling Personal Transformation, 1880-1925.



“H. Porter Abbott” [interview], in Peer F. Bundgaard, Peer F., Henrik Skov Nielsen, & Frederik Stjernfelt, eds., Narratology: Five Questions (Copenhagen: Automatic Press/VIP, 2012), pp. 1-9.