Otis, Laura (she/her/hers)

Visiting Researcher

Main Focus

* Cognitive approaches to literature

* Literature and science

* 19th-21st-century European, American, and World literature

* History of neuroscience 1800-present

Current Project

Cognitive Craft: What can neuroscientists, psychologists, and contemporary world fiction-writers trying to activate readers' imaginations and emotions learn from each other about how sensory systems interact?

Curriculum Vitae

Trained as a neuroscientist and literary scholar, Laura Otis studies the ways that literature and science intersect. In her research, she compares scientific and literary writers’ use of language--especially creative metaphors--to describe memory, identity, communication, emotion, and thought. Otis received her BS in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University, her MA in Neuroscience from the University of California at San Francisco, her MA and PhD in Comparative Literature from Cornell University, and her MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College. As a Professor of English at Emory University, she has offered interdisciplinary courses on literature, science, and medicine. Otis is the author of Organic Memory (1994), Membranes (1999), Networking (2001), Müller’s Lab (2007), Rethinking Thought (2016), and Banned Emotions (2019). She has translated neurobiologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s Vacation Stories into English (2001) and has edited Literature and Science in the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (2002). Besides her academic books, Otis has published the novels CleanRefiner’s FireLacking in SubstanceThe Tantalus Letters and The Memory Hive.

Selected Publications

* Otis, L. "Learning from the Language of Pain." Psychology Today Blog. 9 July, 2023.
* Otis, L. "Whose Spirit? Literature, Appropriation, and the Responsibilities of Artists." Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte, vol. 97, 2023, pp. 217-222.
* Otis, L. "The Gut-Punch of Rejection: Literature Tells It Like It Is." Psychology Today Blog. 24 April, 2023.
* Otis, L. "Movement Powers the Imagination." Psychology Today Blog. 15 January, 2023.
* Otis, L. "The Role of Multimodal Imagery in Life Writing." SubStance, vol. 51, no. 3, 2022, pp. 115-131.
* Otis, L. "Sensory Politics: In Literature, Relatability Matters." Psychology Today Blog. 16 October, 2022.
* Otis, L. "Affective Neuroscience: The Symbiosis of Scientific and Literary Knowledge." In The Routledge Companion to Literature and Emotion. Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2022, pp. 15-25.
* Otis, L. "Body Ownership and the Spirit of Capitalism." Psychology Today Blog. 17 July, 2022.
* Otis, L. Banned Emotions: How Metaphors Can Shape What People Feel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.
* Otis, L. Rethinking Thought. Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

* John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2022
* Fulbright Research Fellowship, 2010-2011
* Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation Fellowship, 2007-2008; 2000
* John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, 2001-2005

Go to Editor View