In a famous scene from My Ántonia, Jim Burden sits studying Virgil's Georgics when Lena Lingard pays him a visit. He has been contemplating a lecture by his Latin professor from the day before, when he felt “brushed by the wing of a great feeling,” and his window is open to the “earthy wind” of a spring thaw, which makes him indolent. As Jim turns back to the page he is flooded by the warmth Lena has left behind, which sparks a fresh understanding of Virgil's phrase, “The best days are the first to flee.” This scene and others like it in My Ántonia reveal the body's ineluctable role in cognition. As Mark Johnson explains in The Meaning of the Body, abstract processes like thought, reasoning, and comprehension are driven by the felt qualities of situations. Thus, the physical particulars of Jim's meditation on Virgil are more than the objective correlative of mood; they saturate the situation that Jim experiences and define his understanding of it. Cather's representation of Jim's cognitive processes as a character and as a narrator resonates with developments in neuroscience and philosophy of mind which present the mind as the body.

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