Fall Welcome Reception

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 lit-and-mind@english.ucsb.edu.

Story and the Brain Undergraduate Discussion Group

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.

Organizers: Sowon Park and Aili Pettersson Peeker

Contact: unconsciousmemory@english.ucsb.edu or apetterssonpeeker@ucsb.edu

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 Lit and Mind Undergrad Class Offering

English 170: Mind, Brain and Literature with Professor Sowon Park

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.’

Course Requirements:

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.

Unthought Reading Group

On March 4th, 2019 from 5-8pm in South Hall 2714, Literature and the Mind will be hosting a reading group meeting on N. Katherine Hayles’ Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious. PDF download includes the chapters listed below that we will be discussing at the meeting.

Prologue: “Transforming How We See the World”

Chapter One: “Nonconscious Cognitions: Humans and Others”

Chapter Eight: “The Utopian Potential of Cognitive Assemblages”

Jaak Panksepp and Kenneth L. Davis – The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach

Jaak Panksepp, friend of the Literature and the Mind program and founder of the field of affective neuroscience, has recently published a new book with co-author Kenneth Davis: The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach.

The Emotional Foundations of Personality

Here is a description, provided by Norton:

A novel approach to understanding personality, based on evidence that we share more than we realize with other mammals.

 

This book presents the wealth of scientific evidence that our personality emerges from evolved primary emotions shared by all mammals. Yes, your dog feels love—and many other things too. These subcortically generated emotions bias our actions, alter our perceptions, guide our learning, provide the basis for our thoughts and memories, and become regulated over the course of our lives.

 

Understanding personality development from the perspective of mammals is a groundbreaking approach, and one that sheds new light on the ways in which we as humans respond to life events, both good and bad.

 

Jaak Panksepp, famous for discovering laughter in rats and for creating the field of affective neuroscience, died in April 2017. This book forms part of his lasting legacy and impact on a wide range of scientific and humanistic disciplines. It will be essential reading for anyone trying to understand how we act in the world, and the world’s impact on us.

Copies of the book are available for perusing in the Literature and the Mind office library.

 

Vera Tobin – Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot

Vera Tobin, currently affiliated with Literature and the Mind and formerly a UCSB Arnhold Faculty Fellow (Postdoctoral), has published a new book: Elements of Surprise: Our Mental Limits and the Satisfactions of Plot.

Elements of Surprise

Here is a description, provided by Harvard University Press:

Why do some surprises delight—the endings of Agatha Christie novels, films like The Sixth Sense, the flash awareness that Pip’s benefactor is not (and never was!) Miss Havisham? Writing at the intersection of cognitive science and narrative pleasure, Vera Tobin explains how our brains conspire with stories to produce those revelatory plots that define a “well-made surprise.”

 

By tracing the prevalence of surprise endings in both literary fiction and popular literature and showing how they exploit our mental limits, Tobin upends two common beliefs. The first is cognitive science’s tendency to consider biases a form of moral weakness and failure. The second is certain critics’ presumption that surprise endings are mere shallow gimmicks. The latter is simply not true, and the former tells at best half the story. Tobin shows that building a good plot twist is a complex art that reflects a sophisticated understanding of the human mind.

 

Reading classic, popular, and obscure literature alongside the latest research in cognitive science, Tobin argues that a good surprise works by taking advantage of our mental limits. Elements of Surprise describes how cognitive biases, mental shortcuts, and quirks of memory conspire with stories to produce wondrous illusions, and also provides a sophisticated how-to guide for writers. In Tobin’s hands, the interactions of plot and cognition reveal the interdependencies of surprise, sympathy, and sense-making. The result is a new appreciation of the pleasures of being had.

Copies of the book are available for perusing in the Literature and the Mind office library.

Lit & Mind Conference: Intersubjectivity and Literature

Intersubjectivity & Literature

PANEL ONE: OTHER MINDS: WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?

Giorgina Paiella — “‘Listen to My Tale’: Storytelling, Attachment, and the Search for Intersubjectivity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Casey Coffee — “Progress and Circularity: Ambivalent Words and Gazes in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

Chip Badley (moderator) — “Henry James and Impersonal Intersubjectivity”

Felice Blake and Julie Carlson — “Just Friends”

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PANEL TWO: MIND-MEETING ACROSS TEXTS AND SPECIES

Rebecca Baker — “Cognitive Cyborgs: Internet Literacy in the Age of the Born-Digital”

Baily Rossi — “The Blossoming Self: Dorothea, Rosamond, and the Intersubjective Moment”

Aili Pettersson Peeker (moderator) — “The Imaginary Powers of Imagination: Address, Anticipation, and Difficult Empathy in Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones

Jessica Zisa — “From Despair to Divine Love: Finding Intersubjectivity through the Matrixial Gaze in A Revelation of Love and The Book of Margery Kempe

Sowon Park — “On Intersubjectivity and Limitrophy”

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PANEL THREE: ON RECOGNITION and REMEMBERING

Maddie Roepe — “‘Damn Your Eyes’: Vision, Tactility, and Distance in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse

Tessa Fieri — “Virginia Woolf and the Moment of Arrest”

Dalia Bolotnikov (moderator) — “Intersubjective Mourning: The Poetic Fragmentation of Fred D’Aguiar and Charles Reznikoff”

Rebecca Chenoweth — “‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’: Shared Memory and Subjectivity in ‘San Junipero’”

Kay Young — “‘On her promise of recognition’: Intersubjectivity and Richard Berengarten’s The Manager

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Corinne Bancroft, Literature and the Mind Research Assistant 2016-17 and recent graduate of our Ph.D. program (June 2018), created a beautiful film featuring faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students who make up our Literature and the Mind community. Accompanying the interviews were images from many of our events over the years. In Corinne’s words, the purpose of the film was to “communicate a sense of the history of Lit and Mind” through interviews with “the professors who helped dream, found, and lead” it and with the students who have been “changed, helped, and influenced” by the “ideas, attachments, and community that have emerged” as a result of Lit and Mind’s existence.

Audience 1Audience 2

Introduced by Julie Carlson, Aranye Fradenburg Joy’s keynote address and farewell lecture “Organ/ize This:  Intersubjectivity and Trans-Subjectivity in Critical Organization Studies” began with recent work and findings in the discipline of organization studies, and then moved through the current institutional situation of both Literature and the Mind and our English department as a whole. Her talk confronted problems of institutions, underscored the necessity of compassion and joy within organizations, and led us through ways in which Bracha Ettinger’s matrixial theory of trans-subjectivity could help us rethink and reimagine the vital, vibrant possibilities of both our department and Literature and the Mind.

Aranye's Keynote

After the conference, we gathered for dinner and dancing in celebration and honor of Aranye and all she has done for our community — for Literature and the Mind and UCSB’s English Department.

Celebration