Abbott, H. Porter

Emeritus, Research Professor


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

Porter Abbott is Research 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

Office Hours: 

By arrangement


(231) 432-0342


(805) 893-7491


Mailing Address: 

Prof. Abbott can be reached by phone, email or the following address through 11 December 2017:
7271 Gills Pier Rd
Northport, MI 49670

He will return to Santa Barbara on 12 December 2017 and be in town until April 2018.

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


Literature and Mind
Cognitive Science Program
Literary Theory
Victorian Literature

Research Interests: 

  • Narrative & narrative theory
  • 19th & 20th-century literature
  • Modernism
  • Literature, cognition, evolution
  • Self-writing


Articles & Chapters: 

Recent Essays

  • "Character & Fictionality" in Henrik Scov Nielsen, et al, eds. Fictionality and Literature: Core Concepts Revisited (forthcoming 2018).
  • "Character, singularity, & rhetorical modeling: A Response to James Phelan," Style 52.1-2 (forthcoming 2018).
  • "What Does it Mean 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 2018).
  • "Virginia Woolf and the Re-Invention of the Novel" in James Acheson, ed. Virginia Woolf (Palgrave, 2017).
  • “Fiction, Fitness, and Failure,” Poetics Today 37.4 (review article, 2016).
  • “Strange Creatures Can Be Animals, too: A Response to Brian Richardson,” Style 50.4 2016).
  • “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; revised 2013); also available on-line as The Living Handbook of Narratology  <>
  • “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)


Other Publications: 

Falling Slowly Dreaming of Flight: Poems and Stories (Ajbabnoktet, 2016)

Cold Certainties and Changes Beyond Measure (Barth, 1988) [poetry Chapbook]


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.