Fall 2019 Reading Group Series: Thinking About Research Justice

Please join us for our November Literature and Mind reading group led by Aili Pettersson Peeker with Visiting Assistant Professor Amrah Salomon and Professor Candace Waid on November 20th at 5pm in the Sankey room (SH 2623). All faculty, postdocs, grads, and undergrads are warmly invited to attend.

As the second meeting of this year’s grad student-led reading group series, this event seeks to foster further conversation among the intersections between Literature and Mind and the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center. Please email english-litandmind@ucsb.edu for the selected readings.

Amrah Salomon, “Telling to reclaim, not to sell: Resistance narratives and the marketing of justice”

Marie-Laure Ryan, “Narratology and Cognitive Science: A Problematic Relation” 

“This reading group will be joined by Visiting Assistant Professor Amrah Salomon (English Department, Indigenous Studies Specialization) and Professor Candace Waid (English Department) as an opportunity for exploring how the interests of Literature and Mind and the American Cultures and Global Contexts Center might merge. We will read one of Professor Salomon’s articles, “Telling to reclaim, not to sell: Resistance narratives and the marketing of justice,” together with Marie-Laure Ryan’s “Narratology and Cognitive Science: A Problematic Relation” (both short ones). Professor Salomon works on Native American Literature, Native Feminisms, and Native American Environmental and Social Justice, among other topics, and this article focuses on Indigenous and traditional storytelling as it critiques story-based practices used by social justice activists today. Ryan’s article introduces cognitive literary studies and raises questions about interdisciplinary collaboration and how to study the nexus of narrative and mind. Together, I hope these articles serve as a starting point for a joint exploration of where cognitive approaches to storytelling and memory merge with other disciplines and agendas as well as where they fail to do so, and for a discussion of research justice and the connection (or lack thereof) between the academy and the communities around it.” —Aili Pettersson Peeke, UCSB English Department

Fall Welcome Reception

Come join us for our Literature and Mind fall welcome reception in the Sankey room (SH 2623) on Wednesday, October 9th, at 5pm! Come enjoy a lovely evening connecting with your fellow minds over tasty refreshments as we enter into the new academic year. All faculty, postdocs, grads, and undergrads are very welcome to attend! If you have any questions, please feel free to email lit-and-mind@english.ucsb.edu.

Story and the Brain Undergraduate Discussion Group

Next Meeting: October 30, 2019, at 6-7:45pm, South Hall 2623 (Sankey Room)

October 30 – This meeting will be led by Thomas Nedungadan and we will read Iris Murdoch’s short essay (only six pages) “Against Dryness” to continue our conversation about the potential of literature and its relationship to empathy and action in the world. Food and refreshments will be provided and everyone is welcome!

December 4 – This meeting will be led by Melody Sobhani and aims to situate our discussion of empathy in a global context by reading short stories by William Faulkner and Haruki Murakami and engaging with the work of the auteur Chang-dong Lee. Readings and more information will be sent out closer to the date.

About Story and the Brain

The advent of neuroscience and artificial intelligence is reshaping our world today, creating a dramatic shift in how we think about what it means to be human. At this critical juncture, it is vital that humanists participate in the development of a shared intellectual enterprise to ensure that scientific developments take place in the context of human values. But much of the ‘cognitive revolution’ still has to make its full impact on the typical student. The Story and the Brain Undergraduate Discussion Group sets out to provide a space for humanists with little or no knowledge of modern neuroscience to acquire an informed account of the model of the mind emerging from accelerating technological and scientific advances. That literature has something significant to offer to the neurobiological and computer sciences on the most subtle aspects of social perception, memory, emotion and cognition will be the focus of the meetings. The group will meet monthly and decide on readings together. All are very welcome and no prior knowledge is needed. Undergraduates are especially welcome.

Organizers: Sowon Park and Aili Pettersson Peeker

Contact: unconsciousmemory@english.ucsb.edu or apetterssonpeeker@ucsb.edu

Readings for Oct. 2nd meeting: Blakey Vermeule’s article “The New Unconscious: A Literary Guided Tour” from The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Literary Studies (2015) and Toni Morrison’s short story “Recitatif” (1983).”

Fall Lit and Mind Undergrad Class Offering

English 170: Mind, Brain and Literature with Professor Sowon Park

Fall 2019. Mon/Wed 12 :30-1:45. Phelps 1160

Aim and Scope of the Course: This is an interdisciplinary course on the human mind. The aim is to encourage an understanding of the range and richness of the ways in which the human mind has been understood in literature, cognitive neuroscience and literary theory/philosophy.  It is designed to provide students with an opportunity to 1) learn some of the more significant developments that have emerged from cognitive neuroscience 2) relate the scientific findings to larger propositions about the nature and value of human experience found in literature; 3) develop skills of ‘practical criticism.’

Course Requirements:

The range of reading for the course is very wide. Students will expected to demonstrate detailed knowledge of a number oftheoretical, scientific philosophical texts as well as respond to the set literary works with historically, scientifically and aesthetically-informed relevance.

Core literary texts:

Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse; George Orwell, 1984; Samuel Beckett, Not I, Iris Murdoch, Under the Net, Ian McEwan, ‘Dussel’. Students should read the assigned texts closely before the class in which they are discussed.

Unthought Reading Group

On March 4th, 2019 from 5-8pm in South Hall 2714, Literature and the Mind will be hosting a reading group meeting on N. Katherine Hayles’ Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious. PDF download includes the chapters listed below that we will be discussing at the meeting.

Prologue: “Transforming How We See the World”

Chapter One: “Nonconscious Cognitions: Humans and Others”

Chapter Eight: “The Utopian Potential of Cognitive Assemblages”

Jaak Panksepp and Kenneth L. Davis – The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach

Jaak Panksepp, friend of the Literature and the Mind program and founder of the field of affective neuroscience, has recently published a new book with co-author Kenneth Davis: The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach.

The Emotional Foundations of Personality

Here is a description, provided by Norton:

A novel approach to understanding personality, based on evidence that we share more than we realize with other mammals.

 

This book presents the wealth of scientific evidence that our personality emerges from evolved primary emotions shared by all mammals. Yes, your dog feels love—and many other things too. These subcortically generated emotions bias our actions, alter our perceptions, guide our learning, provide the basis for our thoughts and memories, and become regulated over the course of our lives.

 

Understanding personality development from the perspective of mammals is a groundbreaking approach, and one that sheds new light on the ways in which we as humans respond to life events, both good and bad.

 

Jaak Panksepp, famous for discovering laughter in rats and for creating the field of affective neuroscience, died in April 2017. This book forms part of his lasting legacy and impact on a wide range of scientific and humanistic disciplines. It will be essential reading for anyone trying to understand how we act in the world, and the world’s impact on us.

Copies of the book are available for perusing in the Literature and the Mind office library.

 

Vera Tobin – Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot

Vera Tobin, currently affiliated with Literature and the Mind and formerly a UCSB Arnhold Faculty Fellow (Postdoctoral), has published a new book: Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot.

Elements of Surprise

Here is a description, provided by Harvard University Press:

Why do some surprises delight—the endings of Agatha Christie novels, films like The Sixth Sense, the flash awareness that Pip’s benefactor is not (and never was!) Miss Havisham? Writing at the intersection of cognitive science and narrative pleasure, Vera Tobin explains how our brains conspire with stories to produce those revelatory plots that define a “well-made surprise.”

 

By tracing the prevalence of surprise endings in both literary fiction and popular literature and showing how they exploit our mental limits, Tobin upends two common beliefs. The first is cognitive science’s tendency to consider biases a form of moral weakness and failure. The second is certain critics’ presumption that surprise endings are mere shallow gimmicks. The latter is simply not true, and the former tells at best half the story. Tobin shows that building a good plot twist is a complex art that reflects a sophisticated understanding of the human mind.

 

Reading classic, popular, and obscure literature alongside the latest research in cognitive science, Tobin argues that a good surprise works by taking advantage of our mental limits. Elements of Surprise describes how cognitive biases, mental shortcuts, and quirks of memory conspire with stories to produce wondrous illusions, and also provides a sophisticated how-to guide for writers. In Tobin’s hands, the interactions of plot and cognition reveal the interdependencies of surprise, sympathy, and sense-making. The result is a new appreciation of the pleasures of being had.

Copies of the book are available for perusing in the Literature and the Mind office library.