Literature and the Mind presented two exciting programs June 1-2 on the cognitive humanities featuring our four visiting European scholars: Marco Bernini, Marco Caracciolo, Karin Kukkonen, and Merja Polvinen.
On June 1st, Bernini, Caracciolo, Kukkonen, and Polvinen directed a special workshop on “Cognition and Creativity” for all interested students, especially undergraduates, at the College of Creative Studies. They discussed topics such as metaphors, personification and how writers shape fictional beings, enaction, embodiment, and predictive processing.
On June 2nd, we had a full day of talks, discussions, and delicious food catered by C’est Cheese in the McCune Conference Room with our visiting scholars. Please see the poster and conference program below.
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Conference program (PDF here):
In “Phantasmal Intersubjectivity: Mental Co-Presence and the Emersivity of Literary Characters,” Marco Bernini discussed the fictional elements that transmigrate into real life outside of the immediate reading context. His talk discussed the “emersivity” of literary characters and asked how and why literary characters enter our cognitive life and give us new cognitive capacities to feel what we would not and could not otherwise.
Marco Caracciolo’s talk on “Embodiment and the Physics of Intersubjectivity in Contemporary ‘Lab Lit’” asked how we can envisage human and nonhuman interrelations, how narrative can integrate realities beyond the human. In particular, Caracciolo directed our attention to the use of metaphors in contemporary lab lit, which focuses on scientists in realistic settings, their personal lives, and how they are related to what they study. The presentation showed ways in which narrative can resist anthropomorphic bias by using metaphor as a formal device to take itself out of human-centered comfort zones.
Karin Kukkonen’s talk, “Mediated Intersubjectivity: Pamela, Julie and 4e Cognition in the Public Sphere,” addressed the role of social cognition in the novel, focusing especially on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse. Pamela itself is comprised of letters between characters, and then dialogue continues through interactions in the public sphere – the conversation is extended through rewritings and continuations of the story, such as Henry Fielding’s Shamela and Eliza Haywood’s Anti-Pamela. After considering the eighteenth century novel, Kukkonen discussed the contemporary web series Skam and ongoing changes in the mediation of social cognition. The presentation considered how serialization prompts a metacognitive response.
In “Enaction, Emotion and Reflective Attention in Narrative,” Merja Polvinen focused on Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, in which artificiality and affect exist simultaneously, playing with the space between truth and fiction. The paratext includes suggestions on how to enjoy the book, twenty-five pages of acknowledgments, and a reflection on issues with the book. The insistence on the paratext makes it seem more like metafiction than a work of nonfiction. Polvinen presented the mental processing involved with this memoir: there is the narrative, the implied author’s actions, and the self-referential processing of ourselves as authorial audience.
Please consider proposing a paper to (or simply following the proceedings of) a symposium organized by ELINAS (Research Center for Literature and Natural Science). The symposium is entitled “Narrative, Cognition and Science Lab,” and will be held from October 21-23, 2016, at the Friedrich-Alexander Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, Germany.
Keynote speakers include Marie-Laure Ryan (Independent Scholar in Residence, University of Colorado), Mark Turner (Institute Professor and Professor of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University), Bruce Clarke (Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science, Texas Tech University), Hans Ulrich Fuchs (Professor of Physics and Founding Director of the Center for Narrative in Science), and our very own H. Porter Abbot (Research Professor Emeritus of English, UCSB). See the description below and send questions and/or 400-word abstracts for papers 25 minutes in length to Mike Sinding (email@example.com)
What would a narratology of science look like? A narratology of science-in-literature? How might principles of cognition bring narrative and science together?
Narrative is a fundamental, probably natural, mode of thought and meaning-making. Science is now a central, more culturally-organized mode of knowing the world, of imagining, exploring, modeling, and acting on it. Narrative and science are not self-evidently relatedindeed they may seem opposed. Yet many connecting threads can be discovered. Scientists are adept and versatile narrators, telling many kinds of stories in many different genres and media. They recount unfoldings of events, at sometimes uncanny scalesfrom a particle collision at near light-speed, to the evolution of life, to the history of the universein order to interpret them. They narrate as individuals or in teams of thousands. Their events may be natural or manufactured, observed or inferred, objective or subjective or both. Scientists also tell human stories of developing hypotheses, arguments, theories and experiments, and they speak to many publics. Scientific stories may operate at the most concrete or the most abstract levels imaginable. Even mathematical proofs and physics equations have narrative qualities, some suggest. Narrativity appears at various stages of scientific processes: informal speculation, thought experiments, experimental design and execution, measurement, argumentation, writing and revision, theorizing, paradigm-shifting, popularizing, caricaturing (boosting and bashing), retrospective histories and philosophies of fields, and more. Scientists may adapt elements of literary narration (intentionally or not); in grand narratives or close case studies, understandings of nature become emplotted, shaped.
Complementarily, non-scientists often tell stories of science. In proto-scientific eras, knowledge-formation is arguably allied with myth, religion and magic: physics is entangled with metaphysics, chemistry with alchemy. And myth persists in modern discourses of science: myths of selfless or self-serving geniuses, of the promises and perils of technology. Journalists report and (attempt to) interpret scientific findings. Politicians and legal professionals grapple with scientific advice to decide social policies. Teachers tell sciences stories to studentsstarting with simple versions, as ladders to be kicked away once the rung of the next-best version is grasped. Other versions circulate on social media (for better or worse), mutating as they move. Literary narrators draw ideas and forms from scientific writing, as topics, themes, images and structures. Narrative art reimagines physical forces, forms of causality and time, natural orders, whole cosmologiesinflecting partial scientific understanding with intuitions of pattern and meaning.
Much excellent scholarship analyzes exchanges between science and narrative. In addition, cognitive scientists have explored narratives centrality to mental processes and products, and literary scholars drawing on cognitive science have produced far-reaching reinterpretations of basic concepts of narrative. Yet there remains a need for deeper understanding of the processes by which science can move into narrative, and (especially) vice-versadeeper in the sense of more detailed, more precise, more systematic, more extensively informed by theory and practice, both narrative and scientific. The narrative turn has transformed the human and social sciences, but we have yet to take the full measure of narrative in the context of the physical sciences. The cognitive turn suggests that cognition may be a key to the deeper understanding we seek. In this light, we propose a dialogue involving a direct and close focus on the intersections of narrative, cognition and science. This focus defines a very wide field of exploration, given the complexities of these terms, and we hope to inspire a rich discussion of new dimensions of these intersections.
We encourage consideration of questions on a range of topics bridging our foci:
- How do scientific thought, practice and communication use narrative qualities? How does narrative cognition enable and reflect scientific cognition? How do scientists see their work as involving story? What forms of cognition overlap but contrast with narrative forms, and how? e.g. abstraction, ambiguity-reduction, visualization, mathematics, description, argument.
- What are the implications of the first questions for epistemology, ontology, communication? Does anyone still think science is just another narrative? What alternatives to the relativist/absolutist polarity have developed in the wake of the science wars?What does the future hold?
- Are there identifiable structures or qualities specific to scientific narratives? What kinds of narrators, characters, plots, causalities, chronologies, discourse structures, rhetorics, emotions, themes and ideologies do we find? What parts of narrative theory resonate with science communities?
- What are the functions of scientific narratives? How is narrative used to describe, predict, explain, enlighten, persuade, entertain?
- How are scientific thought and communication adapted into extra-scientific narrative? How can they affect narrative form and processing?
- How might a consideration of scientific narrative change narrative theory, and cognitive theory? From recognizing previously neglected forms of narrative and thought to revising major concepts.
All forms of narrative, cognitive, and scientific processes, artifacts and theories are welcome.
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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)
Literature and the Mind is excited to spread the news about “Ars et Ingenium: The Process of Imagination,” the third NeuroHumanities Dialogue, coming May 26-28 in Catania, Italy. This dialogue is organized by by the NewHums Research Center–Neurocognitive Studies of the University of Catania (Italy), the International NeuroHumanities Studies Network, and the Lamberto Puggelli Foundation. For further details, please see the poster below, and the official website here.
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
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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