Professor Michael Gazzaniga joined Literature and the Mind on November 16th for a conversation about The Social Brain: Discovering the Networks of the Mind. Professor Gazzaniga, along with Roger Sperry, pioneered the study of the split brain. Our discussion focused on the human brain processes that generate belief systems. Professor Gazzaniga’s research showed that the mind has a modular organization, and each module or unit is capable of producing independent behaviors. After the emission of behaviors, the left-hemisphere language-based system interprets the behaviors and constructs a narrative to explain their meaning. Thus, human beliefs are generated as a result of the dynamics between our mind modules and our left-brain interpreter module.
On November 7th, we came together for this year’s first Literature and the Mind reading group meeting, co-lead by Kay Young and Corinne Bancroft. We read selections from Daniel Stern’s The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life alongside Louise Erdrich’s short story “Father’s Milk.”
We discussed the powerful ability of Erdrich’s text to perform intersubjectivity by creating the felt quality of interactions, both between characters and between text and reader. Works of fiction representationally slice lived reality into moments – and then slow these moments down, immersing us and inviting us into states of identification.
Professor Sowon Park, who joined our initiative and university this year from Oxford University, gave the inaugural Literature and the Mind talk on October 24th. Professor Park specializes in neuroscientific approaches to literature and British Modernism, and she is the founder and convenor of the Unconscious Memory Network. Professor Park’s talk, “A Shade or a Shape of You: Theory of Mind in Lily Briscoe’s Vision,” reflected on what Theory of Mind might mean for literary research, focusing particularly on Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. The paper presented Lily’s final vision in the novel as an example of mind-reading that transcends power relations and transactional dynamics.
On October 19th, Literature and the Mind hosted a pizza party for all undergraduates interested in the initiative and the specialization.
This year’s Undergraduate Representatives, Henry Bernard and Baily Rossi, introduced themselves and shared their experiences and thoughts about the Literature and the Mind Specialization.
We met one another, enjoyed delicious pizza, and read an excerpt from Daniel Stern’s The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life . Our discussion about the cocreation of our mental life turned to the brilliant improvisational comedy of Nichols and May – and watching their skits brought alive for us our previous theme of “Improvisation” together with our new theme of “Intersubjectivity.”
Thanks to everyone who joined this undergraduate Lit and Mind social – we can’t wait to get together again in the winter quarter.
On October 3rd, undergraduates, grad students, faculty, and researchers from a variety of departments and initiatives gathered together around food and friends to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year and theme at the Literature and the Mind opening reception. Kay Young, the new Director of the Literature and the Mind Initiative, introduced to us our new research topic, “Intersubjectivity,” and this year’s Graduate Representatives, Corinne Bancroft and Dalia Bolotnikov, shared some of the year’s exciting upcoming events and speakers. We look forward to exploring over the next two years how we function as intersubjective beings and what makes literary studies intersubjective. Thanks to all of our attendees for joining us in beginning a wonderful new year!
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This year, we celebrated the achievements of another graduating class of English majors at UCSB who specialized in Literature and the Mind. Graduating seniors gathered with faculty and graduate students from English and Comparative Literature to share memories from their courses in the field, favorite texts and perspectives they encountered, and their plans for the final week of class and life after graduation (including applications to medical school and animation studios, finishing coursework abroad, and taking some well-deserved time off before pursuing graduate school). We also celebrated three successful years of programming under Julie Carlson’s direction, gathering faculty and students from centers with whom she collaborated in the study of Improvisation (including the American Cultures in Global Contexts Center, Hemispheric South/s, the Early Modern Center and English Broadside Ballad Archive, and Transcriptions).
A hearty congratulations to the following seniors who earned the specialization by taking four or more courses taught or endorsed by Literature and Mind faculty: Suzanne Becker, Kore Busath-Haedt, Diane Byun, Jennifer Chang, Darrin Ching, Garrett Edwards, Tasha Harris, Andrea Hashimoto, Charles Langeland, Williams Leiva, Amanda Levya, Veronica Nakla, Tiffany Park, Jackie Parra, Imelda Perez, Michelle Plevack, Carlo de la Rosa, Aldair Serrano, Cecilia Sin, Alexia Stidham, Diana Valle, Nicole Villanueva, and Marisol Zarate.
As a new academic year approaches, Literature and the Mind is pleased to welcome new faculty and a new initiative director.
After three years of dedicated and welcoming leadership, Julie Carlson will step down from her position as Director of the Literature and Mind Initiative. With her guidance, we have explored “The Value of Care” and “Improvisation,” putting insights from mind and literary studies into conversation with students and scholars in disciplines across the university. (Stay tuned for reflections and resources on “Improvisation,” coming soon). As we move into the fall, Kay Young will take up the Initiative Director position, and will lead our group in studying “Intersubjectivity.” More details will be announced as the 2016-2017 academic year gets underway!
This past winter, UCSB’s English Department held an exciting job search for a full-time faculty position in the field of cognitive literary studies. We saw many excellent candidates and learned about cutting-edge research in this field; and we are happy to have Dr. Sowon Park of Oxford University join our department and Literature and Mind in the fall. Here is a brief overview of Sowon’s interdisciplinary research:
Sowon S Park specializes in British Modernism, Political Fiction, World Literature, and the relationship between Literature and other forms of knowledge, in particular Cognitive Neuroscience. Before coming to UCSB, she taught at Oxford University for over a decade, where she was Lecturer and Tutor in English at Corpus Christ College. Her previous academic appointments were at Cambridge University and Ewha University, Seoul. She has also held visiting appointments at UCSD and ZFL, Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren, Berlin. She received an M.Phil and D.Phil in English from Oxford. Recently, she was awarded a four-year AHRC grant to work on “Prismatic Translation’. Her latest publication is a special issue of The Journal of World Literature that she guest-edited, titled, The Chinese Scriptworld and World Literature (June, 2016). She has published her academic work in The Review of English Studies, ML!, ELT, European Review, Arcadia, Neohelicon and Comparative Critical Studies. She has been President of the ICLA Research Committee on Literary Theory since 2014 and is the founder and convenor of the Unconscious Memory Network.
We look forward to sharing more of Sowon’s research, pedagogical interests, and perspectives of literature and the mind soon.
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UCSB’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center continues its year-long focus on the humanities and the brain in a conference entitled “The Humanities, The Neurosciences, and the Brain.” This conference, held on UCSB’s campus from May 12-13, features Gabrielle Starr as the keynote speaker, and includes presentations by graduate students affiliated with Literature and the Mind.
From the IHC description: “This interdisciplinary conference will exploring the multiple accords, and discords, that characterize humanistic and neuroscientific approaches to the study of the brain…. Participants will explore creative framings of neuroscientific inquiry through humanistic perspectives, as well as artistic explorations of inner states and mental landscapes.”
The conference is free and open to the public. You can find more information, including information about registering to attend, here.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
9:00 AM coffee and pastries
9:15 AM Welcome: Susan Derwin, Director, IHC
9:30 AM Panel 1: Sight and Sound
Katie Adkison, English, UCSB, “Speaking What We Feel: The Sense of Speech in King Lear”
Chip Badley, English, UCSB, “’If not in the Word, in the Sound’: Sound, Affect, Frederick Douglass”
Cole Cohen, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UCSB, “Merleau-Ponty and Me: The Phenomenology of Neurodiversity”
10:30 AM break
10:45 AM Sight and Sound continued
Phillip Grayson, Literature, St. John’s University, “At The Edge of Evening, Often Forever: Extramission, Consciousness, Literature”
Ery Shin, English, Eureka College, “Imaging the Mind in Literary Contexts”
12:00 PM lunch
12:45 PM Panel 2: Sociality, Intersubjectivity, Empathy
Corinne Bancroft, English, UCSB, “The Face of Friendship in Louise Erdrich’s Fiction”
Ksenia Federova, Cultural Studies, UC Davis, “Identity Transactions and Interpersonal Dynamics in Art and Science”
Cheryl Jaworski, English, UCSB, “The Embodied Mind and ‘the Demon of Domesticity’ in Dickens’s Dombey and Son”
2:15 PM break
2:30 PM Panel 3: Theories of Mind, Machines and Mechanical Metaphors
Hannes Bend, Quantum Physics Aleman Lab and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, “Metaverses/Myndful”
Jennifer Duggan, English, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, “The Victorians and the Mechanical Brain”
Melissa M. Littlefield, English and Kinesiology & Community Health, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, “Public Displays of Arousal: EEG Wearables and the Fashioning of Instrumental Intimacy”
4:00 PM break
4:15 PM Panel 4: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Historical Influences
Louis Caron, History and Religious Studies, UCSB, “Some Observations on the History of Neuroscience, and on Thomas Willis, the First Neurologist”
Jap-Nanak Makkar, English, University of Virginia, “Libet’s Missing ½ Second, Digital Technology, and Political Critique”
Robert Samuels, Writing Program, UCSB, “Damasio’s Error: The Humanities Between Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience”
5:45 PM reception
Friday, May 13, 2016
8:30 AM coffee and pastries
8:45 AM Welcome
9:00 AM Panel 5: Altered States
Elliott D. Ihm, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UCSB, “Neurocognitive Foundations of Self-Transcendent Experiences: A Speculative Predictive Coding Account”
Brianna K. Morseth, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UCSB, “To Forget the Self: Religious, Cultural, and Neuroscientific Dimensions of Ego Death through Contemplative Practice”
D.C. McGuire, Neuroscience Researcher, “Neuroscience Offers Humanity’s Second Chance”
10:30 AM break
10:45 AM Keynote: Gabrielle Starr, English, New York University, author of Feeling Beauty
“Pleasure and Form: Chasing Imagination”
12:15 PM lunch
1:00 PM Panel 6: Memory and the Creation of Consciousness
Jacob Burg, English, Brandeis University, “Reading Forgetful Minds: The Social Brain in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant”
Wallace Chafe, Linguistics, UCSB, “Immediate versus Displaced Thinking”
Rebecca Chenoweth, English, UCSB, “Remembering ‘The Best of England’ from the Periphery of War in The Remains of the Day”
Sara Pankenier Weld, Germanic & Slavic Studies, UCSB, “The Birth of Consciousness: Andrei Bely’s Modernist Pseudo-Autobiography”
3:00 PM Closing remarks
Image: Rene Descartes, illustration of mind/body dualism from “Meditations on First Philosophy” (duplicated)