Graduate Course: Psychosomatics

fig9Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg

Course: Engl 236, Fall 2016

“Interaction is the conscious or unconscious exchange of behavioral or nonbehavioral, sensible and intelligible signs from the whole arsenal of somatic and extrasomatic [cultural, social and environmental] systems.”

– Fernando Poyatos, “Nonverbal Communication in Interaction: Psychology and Literature”

The purpose of this course is to broaden our understanding of the somatic and environmental features of expressive (and impressive) experience.  Readings will draw primarily on the recent revitalization of interest in psychosomatics occasioned by neuroscientific developments in distributed cognition/affect, but will also include social-psychological studies in nonverbal communication (especially paralanguage), enactivist research, and biosemiotics.  Authors will include Elizabeth A. Wilson (Psychosomatic:  Feminism and the Neurological Body and Gut Feminism); Brian Massumi (ed. A Shock to Thought: Expression After Deleuze and Guattari);  Andy Clark (Supersizing the Mind); Giovanna Colombetti  (The Feeling Body); Aleksandra Kostic and Derek Chadee (eds. The Social Psychology of Nonverbal Communication); Fernando Poyatos (Nonverbal Communication Across Disciplines and Crosscultural Perspectives in Nonverbal Communications); Marilia Aisenstein and Elsa Rappoport de Aisemberg (eds. Psychosomatics Today: A Psychoanalytic Perspective); Donald Favareau (ed. Essential Readings in Biosemiotics), and Daniel Paul Schreber (Memoirs of My Nervous Illness).  If possible, students should have read Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals and Freud’s Studies in Hysteria before the class begins.

Image: “Fig. 9: Cat, savage and prepared to fight, drawn from life by Mr. Wood,” from Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals

Undergraduate Course: Crazy Talk: Memoirs of Madness

Unknown illustrator and Rodolfo Fucile

Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg

Course: ENGL 197

Time: Spring 2016, 9:30-10:45, MF

This class focuses on the experience of madness (schizophrenia, depression, bipolar illness, and borderline personality disorder); its expression in the form of the memoir; and the role of autobiographical discourse in changing minds.  Trauma Warning:  the material in these course texts and topics of class discussion could be traumatizing.  Do not take this class if you have concerns about your ability to tolerate unhappy and sometimes outrageous subjects.

This small seminar requires regular class participation, one seminar presentation one 2-3 page paper, and one 7-10 page paper.  The course will cover memoirs and fictionalized memoirs, including the following texts:

D. P. Schreiber, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness.  Daniel Paul Schreber was the son of a famous pediatrician and later became a prominent attorney and judge in 19th-century Germany.  The Memoirs of his mental illness became the topic of an important case study by Sigmund Freud.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.  Sylvia Plath is one of the USA’s best 20th-century poets; Ariel is perhaps her best-known book of poems.  The Bell Jar  is a somewhat fictionalized memoir that tells the story of Esther Greenwood’s first episode of major depressive disorder.

Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted.  Susanna Kaysen was the daughter of one of John F. Kennedy’s economic advisors and is now a novelist.  Her memoir of her institutionalization for borderline personality disorder became the film Girl, Interrupted, starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.

Kay Jamison, An Unquiet Mind.  Kay Jamison is a clinical psychologist, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, and Honorary Professor of English at St. Andrews University.  Her book An Unquiet Mind explores the experience of bipolar illness.

Elyn Saks, The Center Cannot Hold.  Elyn Saks is Associate Dean and Orrin B. Evans Professor of Law, Psychology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.  She is also a MacArthur Fellow.  The Center Cannot Hold tells the story of the onset of her schizophrenia.

Image credit: unknown illustrator, “The Bell Jar;” Rodolfo Fucile, “El Caso Schreber”

 

 

Undergraduate Course: Cognitive Dickens

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Instructor: Kay Young

Course: ENGL 170 CD

Time: Spring 2016, MW 1:00-2:15 PM

Charles Dickens is the great English novelist of identity “wounded by mystery.”   Dickens narrates the rupture of parent from child as a psychic drama in relation to which his particular realism, his novel of the orphan and of detective fiction, work in reflective embodiment.   In this course we’ll explore how Dickens’s response to the questions, “Who am I?” and “What are my origins?” and “To whom do I belong?” and “What is mine?” lead to new sounds in his psychologizing of the 19th-century English novel—in the lived narrative experience of being the orphan who asks those questions and in what forms of cognitive processing the narrative uses to answer them.   We’ll read David CopperfieldBleak House, and Great Expectations  in conjunction with works of attachment theory and cognitive science.

Image: “Charles Dickens’ Legacy to the World” (detail)

Undergraduate Course: Body Language

Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg
Course: English 170BL, Winter 2016

Darwin argued that when animals experience emotion, they are experiencing bodily events (the corners of the mouth twitch, blood pressure rises). Expression is emotional experience, not what signifies it. Influenced by Darwin, Freud was convinced that mind and body were in some way of a piece: psychological distress could affect the body and also be caused, in part at least, by the body’s troubles. Since Freud’s time, many researchers, clinicians and theorists have doubted, sometimes even ridiculed, the existence of psychosomatic and somatopsychic phenomena. But times have changed again, and we are more and more prepared to believe, at minimum, that bodily and psychical experience co-construct one another. This course will begin with a sampling of Darwin’s writing on the emotions; with Freud and Breuer’s remarks on abreaction and catharsis in Studies in Hysteria; and with a contemporary study of Hysteria by Christopher Bollas, psychoanalyst (and former English Ph.D.) interested in the idea of a body that prepares to speak, developmentally and otherwise. In this part of the course we will also consider some examples of literature on “lovesickness.” Next, we will consider the embodied character of delusional experience, through Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memories of My Nervous Illness and Freud’s commentary thereon; selections from the works of Deleuze and Guattari and Massumi on schizophrenia and expression; and essays from the anthology Psychosomatics Today: A Psychoanalytic Perspective, which will introduce us to very recent work on these topics. The last part of the course will draw from the work of Elaine Scarry (The Body in Pain), Giovanna Colombetti (The Feeling Body) and Andy Clark (Supersizing the Mind), all important proponents of “distributed”/“extended” mind. The mind may be embodied, but it’s also extended well beyond the body, by means, for example, of written texts. How might we want to conceive of literary experience accordingly?

Image: Still from Chaplin, “Modern Times”

Undergraduate Course: The Comic Turn of Mind

Still from "Some Like It Hot" (United Artists)

The art form that affirms survival, that makes happiness our business and hope not the gift of the lucky few but a turn of mind to be practiced and pursued is COMEDY. Comedy as a genre, comedy as a practice, comedy as a way of imagining will be the object and its frame of our study.
Primary texts by Aristophanes, Larry David, Billy Wilder, Menander, Shakespeare, Nichols and May.
Theory by: Aristotle, Eco, Freud, Bergson, Frye, and Young.

Image: Still from “Some Like It Hot” (United Artists)

Undergraduate Course: Memory: A Bridge Between Neuroscience and the Humanities

Salvador Dali, "The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory," detail

Instructors: Dominique Julien (French and Comparative Literature) and Kenneth S. Kosik (Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology)

Course: Comp Lit 27, Winter 2015

Few things are more important than memory in shaping and defining human personality. Memory is what makes us humans. Memory and personality are inseparable (conversely, loss of memory, in cases like Alzheimer’s disease, destroys the patient’s personality). In recent decades, memory has emerged as one specific area of investigation common to neuroscience and the humanities where these two radically different methods of understanding reality occasionally converge. We propose to explore some of the key issues raised by memory processes as cases where the gap between the humanities and
neuroscience can be bridged.

Since Antiquity, memory has been a subject of interest to writers and philosophers. In recent years, neuroscientific progress has appeared to lend anatomical and clinical support to the literary descriptions left by Plato or Proust: what science is discovering or verifying today often seems to have been intuited and described in literary form in the past. One example would be the ancient memory techniques based on loci (literally places in the mind; this elaborate memory training system is known to us through rhetorical treatises from Antiquity to the Renaissance), whose patterns appear to converge with recent neuroscientific studies of memorization processes known as localization of function. Another example would be the correlation between memory and the senses, made famous by Proust’s philosophical novel Remembrance of Things Past, which has also developed into a key area of neuroscientific investigation.

Image: Salvador Dali, “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory” (detail)

Undergraduate Course: History of the Mind

M0001845 John Haygarth. Line engraving by W. Cooke, 1827, after J. H.

Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg

Course: English 170, Spring 2015

By “a history of mind,” I mean a history of thinking about the mind. Is it embodied, inspired, dispersed? How do minds understand each other? How do they shape their environments, including their cultural environments, and how are they shaped by them in turn? To find out how good minds from the past explored these questions, we will read Aristotle’s De Anima (On the Soul) and Poetics; Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex; St. Augustine’s Confessions, Book X; Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy; Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding; Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy; Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia,” and selections from The Interpretation of Dreams; all interspersed with various poems and commentaries from different eras. This course will give you a foundation for thinking about more particular histories of mind on topics like creativity, love, play, and madness.

Image: Aristotle, detail from “De Anima”

Graduate Course: Affect Theory and Practice

Mamma Andersson, "Cry"

Instructor: Kay Young

Course: English 236, Fall 2014

How does literature feel? What creates its feelings states? What relation is there between literary feeling and human emotion?

Why is emotional understanding important—to our work as scholars, teachers, and humanists?

In this seminar, we’ll explore affect—its nature, meanings, presence, and significance to the study of the verbal arts—through neuroscience, contemporary psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literary theory.

Each seminar member will choose a literary work by any author, from any period, genre, nation about which s/he has strong feelings to read as an affect theory project at the seminar’s close.

We’ll bring selections from the “Affect/ Feeling/Emotion” section of the Literature and Mind Field List, as well as from:
Henry James’ *The Golden Bowl*, Joseph LeDoux’s *The Feeling Brain*, Antonio Damasio’s*The Feeling of What Happens*, Jaak Penksepp’s *Affective Neuroscience*, Alan Schore’s*Affect Regulation*, William James’ *The Principles of Psychology*, Donna Orange’s*Emotional Understanding*, Thomas Dixon’s *From Passion to Emotions*, essays David Miall and Don Kuiken, Martha Nussbaum’s *Love’s Knowledge* and/or *Upheavals of Thought*.

Image: Mamma Andersson, “Cry”

Graduate Course: Romantic Transport

Detail, Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, "Psyche Transported to Heaven"

Instructor: Julie Carlson

Course: English 233, Winter 2015

How do we get from here to there and what does such movement signify?  What role does the aesthetic play in facilitating physical and mental movement, both desired and forced?   This seminar focuses on British and German Romantic-era texts that theorize and enact modes of embodied transport:  discourses regarding the sublime, imagination, metaphor, and the transporting capacities of art as well as texts depicting desired and forced transportation of bodies (slavery, emigration, urbanization, sexual experimentation). 

Most class sessions combine a Romantic-era theoretical text, a Romantic-era literary text, and a contemporary essay discussing a similar process in an effort to consider also how “romanticism” travels across times and places.  Readings include:  Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, P. B. Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, Anna Barbauld, England in Eighteen Hundred Eleven, William Blake, Visions of the Daughters of Albion,S. T. Coleridge, Christabel, Thomas Clarkson, On the Rise, Progress, and Abolition of the Slave Trade.  Contemporary readings include chapters from Doris Sommers, The Work of Art in the World, Edwidge Danticat, Create Dangerously, Robin Kelley, Freedom DreamsD. W. WinnicottPlay and Reality, Norman Holland, The Brain and Literature.

Sketch of a slave hold by Thomas Clarkson

Image 1: Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, “Psyche Transported to Heaven”

Image 2: Thomas Clarkson, “Description of a Slave Ship”

Graduate Course: Mental States in the Novel– Proust, Woolf, Borges

Paperoles_Proust

Instructor: Dominique Jullien

Course: Comp Lit 200 / French 229F, Fall 2014

In the works of Proust, Woolf, and Borges, depiction of mental states, cognitive processes and emotional experience, seems to anticipate on an intuitive level what modern cognitive science is only beginning to verify as our knowledge of brain function develops. Traditional notions of selfhood are radically uprooted and reframed both in fiction and psychology. Proust’s analysis of habit parallels William James’s; James’s stream of consciousness conception comes alive in Woolf’s late novels; Bergson’s ideas on time and memory find echoes in the Proustian novel of recollection; Mrs. Dalloway offers a metaphorical counterpart to Freud’s trauma theories. At the other end of the century, Borges’s fictions take views of the self and cognitive processes to fantastic extremes. Issues explored in this seminar include: memory & oblivion, the ethics & aesthetics of habit, memory & the fantastic, involuntary & unconscious memory, memory & trauma, metaphor & understanding, epiphanies of the mind, deductive reasoning & detective fiction logic, creativity & everyday experience, stream of consciousness, dream & sleep, individual & collective memory, etc.

In English.  Open to advanced Undergraduates with instructor’s approval.

Mental States 2014 Poster copy