On October 20th, Literature & the Mind joined Literature & the Environment for a presentation by Nicole Seymour (CSU Fullerton) that brought together ecocritical scholarship, affect theory, and film studies. Focusing on “awkwardness,” “ambivalence,” and “glee,” Seymour’s discussion considered “bad” environmental feelings that characterize a particular recent trend in the environmental humanities across film, television, literature, and performance art and show an alternative, often ironic and humorous, approach to environmental activism that diverges from the sincerity and sentimentality often associated with it.
Instructor: 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
If you’re having trouble viewing this image, download the PDF here.
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)
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”
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
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”
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.
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.