In her last work The Transmission of Affect (2004), Teresa Brennan suggests that people in the Western world once had conscious knowledge of the transmission of affect. The only documentation of these affective traces lies in literature and the clinic. Brennan goes on to call for an “education of the senses” that involves rethinking our relationship to language and expanding our definition of language to include systems of the body. How might this expansion shed light on possible affective economies that have been lost in the margins? What cross-cultural threads might be traced in the process? Continuing our conversation about primary emotions earlier this quarter, this reading group considers Teresa Brennan’s theory of affect as a way of thinking about how we read the embodied feelings that literature has always preserved. We will read Brennan’s “Introduction” paired with a brief reading from Julian of Norwich’s late fourteenth-century manuscript, A Revelation of Divine Love, as a way of opening up this conversation.
Christopher Chamberlin holds the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in English at UC Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in Culture and Theory at UC Irvine in 2018, with emphases in feminist studies and critical theory. He has written work published or forthcoming in Studies in Gender and Sexuality,Discourse, Journal of Medical Humanities, and Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, and serves on the editorial boards of both the journal in Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society and the European Journal of Psychoanalysis. Dr. Chamberlin is currently completing his first book project, which examines how Freudian practitioners interpreted the clinical phenomena of antiblack racism during the Civil Rights Era.
Like primary colors in visual art, long has there been debate on whether human beings can identify primary emotions: happy, sad, angry – can our entire emotional range, as nuanced as it is, possibly be represented in various combinations of our feelings’ simplest base components?
But what is an emotion? How many primary emotions are there? How do we decide what they are, if there are any? The goal of this reading group is to enter the debate on primary (or “basic”) emotion by reviewing a selection of readings from the most recent revision of the Lit and Mind reading list:
- Colombetti, Giovanna. “The Emotions: Existing Accounts and Their Problems.” The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind, pp. 25 – 52. MIT Press, 2013.
- Damasio, Antonio. “Emotions and Feelings.” Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, pp. 127 – 162. Penguin Books, 1994.
- Panksepp, Jaak. “Emotional Operating Systems and Subjectivity” and “The Varieties of Emotional Systems in the Brain.” Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions, pp. 24 – 58. Oxford, 1998.
Reading notes: Emphasis will be on the Colombetti reading, which is shorter and much easier to read than the others. For the Damasio, pages 1-7 in the PDF are necessary for background information, but the whole chapter is useful. Figures can be disregarded. For the Panksepp, pages 24-28 and 41-55 are most central to the debate. Figures and study details about non-human organisms can be disregarded. There’s also a selection of pages 302-305 from the last chapter that might be interesting for folks. Please email email@example.com for the selected readings.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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 email@example.com.
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.
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 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.’
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.