Events on Campus: Conference on Metamorphosis: Human, Animal, Armor


Please join us for “Metamorphosis: Human, Animal, Armor,” an interdisciplinary conference on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.”  Literature and the Mind director Julie Carlson is acting as convener, along with Elisabeth Weber (Germanic and Slavic Studies) and Wolf Kittler (Germanic and Slavic Studies); and L&M-affiliated faculty members Russell Samolsky and Kay Young will be participating in the conference’s opening panel.  The conference will be held December 3-5; please see the conference’s official website for the official schedule, locations on campus, and details about participants, here.

From the conference’s official description: “On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Franz Kafka’s famous text “The Metamorphosis,” an interdisciplinary conference at UCSB brings together a wide array of scholars and artists to discuss Kafka’s text in its literary-historical context, and to read it as an exploration of metamorphoses that problematize borders between species and between living organisms and machines. Kafka’s text opens pressing questions in such fields as human and animal rights, old and new forms of warfare, art and technology: mimicry of animals in developments in drone warfare, bionics (exoskeletons), prostheses, and nano-technology, as well as digitally engineered perception through animal eyes.”

Image: Bronze Beetle, Greek, 750BCE, Yale University Art Gallery

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)

Guest Speaker: Ruth Leys on “Violence, Affect, and the Post-Traumatic Subject”

darwin pain


Thursday, January 15, 5:30 PM

McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

Ruth Leys (History, Johns Hopkins University) will visit UCSB for “an assessment of the latest twists in affect theory.”  This exciting talk, co-sponsored by the UCSB’s Graduate Center for Literary Research and Literature and the Mind, will address the following questions:

“If the twentieth century was the Freudian century, the century of libido, will the twenty first century-as has been suggested- be the century of the “post-traumatic” subject, whose affective indifference and profound emotional disengagement from the world mark him or her as a victim of brain damage? Will political, economic, and natural violence now take the form of a meaningless shock to the “emotional brain,” depriving victims of all meaning and affect? What are the stakes of such claims?”

Image: from Charles Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals