EVENT: Opening Reception (October 22)

Renoir Detail
 

Please come to the Opening Reception of Literature and the Mind this Wednesday, October 22, starting at 5:30 pm in the Sankey Room in the English Department (second floor of South Hall).  Besides socializing, we plan to describe our new focus on improvisation, some of the events that we have lined up, unveil our new website, and invite your input and ideas for collaboration.  There will be reception-style food and drink!

Image: Renoir, “The Luncheon of the Boating Party”

CONFERENCE: “On the Beach:” BABEL Working Group Biennial Meeting

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From October 16-18, UC Santa Barbara’s campus hosts the third biennial meeting of the BABEL Working Group. This year, artists, scholars, and other thinkers meet to address the theme “On the Beach: Precariousness, Risk, Forms of Life, Affinity, and Play at the Edge of the World.”  This unconventional meeting invites participants to “comb the beach — not to straighten out, nor even to mine, but to entangle while also pondering.”   The conference is co-sponsored by many departments and initiatives across and beyond UCSB’s campus, including Literature and the Mind.

View the complete program here.

Follow the latest goings-on at the Babel Working Group on their blog here.

Image above via Joni Sternbach, SurfLand

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Beach ball featured in “Chaucer on the Beach” panel


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

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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

Article: ” ‘We Sweat, Crave, and Itch All Day’: Why Writing About Bodies Is Vital”

image by Doug McLean

In The Atlantic, essayist Leslie Jamison reflects on the words of Virginia Woolf that shaped her view of bodies in literature.  Jamison recalls struggling to represent the physical aftermath of surgery, fearing that “writing about bodily experience [is] somehow… the ultimate solipsism,” and ultimately finding solace in Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill.”  Jamison connects Woolf’s essay, Elaine Scarry’s theory on pain and speech, and the works of Whitman and Faulkner to memories of her own discomfort in waiting rooms and creative writing classes.  Ultimately, she concludes that “the surface of the body isn’t poverty; it isn’t lack,” and moreover, it can be a site of deep connection between authors and readers.

Read Jamison’s piece in full here.

Learn more about Jamison’s volume of nonfiction essays on bodies and others, The Empathy Exams, here.

Image by Doug McLean for The Atlantic.

ARTICLE: “Crying While Reading Through the Centuries”

Vincent van Gogh, "A Woman Reading"

Pelagia Horgan’s article for The New Yorker traces the relationship between reading and affect, from the eighteenth century “sentimental novel” to contemporary tearjerkers.  Contemporary questions of whether young adult novels are valuable, Horgan argues, hark back to a larger debate about “why books matter to us, and what reading is ‘for,’ ” and even “who we want to be.”

Read Hogan’s article in full here.

Image: “A Woman Reading” by Vincent van Gogh.

 

BOOK: What We See When We Read

Karenina-Mendelsund

“When we want to co-create, we read.  We want to participate; and we want ownership.  We would rather have sketches than verisimilitude — because the sketches, at least, are ours.”

Peter Mendelsund, associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf,  explores what we envision (and what we do not) when reading literature.  The answer, it turns out, is “not much” — at least nothing close to what we see in the physical world — and yet we have a strong connection to these sketched-out images because they are, in part, our own creative handiwork.  Blending narrative theory and personal reflection, Mendelsund offers some bold answers to the question of how vision and literature align; and by juxtaposing classic texts (from Chaucer to Calvino) with striking illustrations and simple questions, he challenges readers to reflect on their own experiences of seeing while reading.

Visit Mendelsund’s blog to learn more about this book and other projects here.

All images by Peter Mendelsund

 

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UNDERGRADUATE COURSE: Feeling, Place, Expression

Fish Blood Detail Instructor: Aranye Fradenburg

Course: English 197, Fall 2014

Until the post-World War II period, the interdependence of human psychology with our environments was, for the most part, unthought.  But the advent of nuclear power forced scientists and humanists alike to think more deliberately about this interdependence.  The publication of groundbreaking work on ecology and psychology in the 1970’s, during the First Wave of the contemporary environmental movement, led to what is now a rich interdisciplinary body of work on the subject.  This course will introduce you to that body of work, drawing on the work of philosophers (“ecosophy”), scientific psychologists, and psychoanalysts (“eco-psychoanalysis”) that now asks us, not just to understand better our “place” in the environment, but also to understand better the “place” of the environment within our selves.

Literature, of course, fictional or otherwise, has always understood the evocative power of these emplacements, from Homer’s fascination with the structure of the city of Troy to the lyrics of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Let’s Go to Pluto.” So we will be reading selections from Isenberg’s collection State of the Arts:  California Writers Talk About Their Work; Young’s collection The Literature of California:  Native American Beginnings to 1945; Cortez, On the Imperial Highway:  New and Selected Poems; Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles; and John McPhee, Assembling California. 

Critical/analytical inspirations will include selections from Geoffrey Bateman’s Steps To An Ecology of Mind; Dodd’s Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos; and Rust, Vital Signs: Psychological Responses to Ecological Crisis. 

Image: Gustav Klimt, “Fish Blood”