The Brain and Literary Questions - Session 2

  1. Session 2. January 16. Where Is a Text? We will be building some neurological knowledge and considering what is perhaps the most basic assumption in thinking about literature.
    1. Brain materials:
      1. Basics: Damasio, "Some Pointers on the Anatomy of the Nervous System." Handout.
      2. Basics: Bownds, Biology of Mind, chs. 1-2.
        1. Ch. 1. Bownds doing bigthink. Weak here.
          1. Question of csness. Very hard.
          2. Question of "I." He's very against. Fear of homunculus, pic on 13.
          3. Modules. The Swiss army knife metaphor. Fodor: somebody in charge.
        2. Ch. 2. Bownds is biologist. The "Darwin machine" (cp. 19C myth of progress).
          1. variance (Darwin-farmers)/genetic change/mutation ---> replicate ---> select and circle. Phenotype - genotype. Not about survival of phenotypes but of genotypes. back.
            ·  Middle is lawful but the first and last are random!! Not "survival of the fittest."
          2. How would you evidence evolution to the 43% unconvinced?
            1. Fossil evidence - v imperfect. Odds against fossilization, odds against finding a fossil.
            2. Embryology. Partial recapitulation of evolution. Embryos of diff't species are similar. You had gills and arteries to match. Tail
            3. Comparative anatomy. The five fingers of the manatee. Horse hoof.
            4. Geographical distribution of species. Similar habitats widely separated have similar biota. Different habitats near one another have different biota. Selection by habitat or environment ultimately determines species.
      3. Basics: Structures, Primates, Hominids. Bownds, Biology of Mind, chs. 3-5, pp. 43-115
        1. Do you understand neurons from earlier chapters?? Hormones act at a distance. P. 26. Describe action potential, vesicles, neurotransmitters.
        2. Ch. 3. Brain structures. These are important, and you have to learn these terms.
          Trace out paths on Igor.
          Learn the ones in the diagrams. See pp. 50-51. I gave you a list of important words to use in navigating. Problem: people use synonyms. See the brain pix I handed out in our first session.
             P. 64. Questions are all good.
          1. 1. What does frontal/neocortex do? N.B. late development: up to 20s.
            Brain power simply a specialized adaptation like bats' radar.
          2. 2. Triune brain. Brains in parallel? Cross-connections. Importance of thalamus.
          3. 3. State functional specializations. One lesion defines a function? No. See 56.3.
          4. 4. Sidebar 58.7. Imp't for language.
          5. 5. 61.5. Imagining telephone: same areas in brain light up as when seeing telephone. V. important for reading.
        3. Ch. 4. Primates. P. 84. Bownds v against a "self." Questions again. Identity fm within; identity fm without.
          1. p. 85: Q1. Language in animals? Ans: reinforced behavior. 68.5. See sidebar on 69.
          2. p. 85: Q2. How far ahead does conditioning work?
          3. p. 85: Q3. Unfamiliar configuration. Important for Lacan's mirror phase.
          4. p. 85: Q4 p. 80. Genocide in chimps: opg of film 2001.Is there an aggressive instinct? Freud thought so. If we deduct emotions, is aggression OK according to pure rationality? Cannibalism.
        4. Ch. 5. Hominid Mind. Again QQ good.
          1. 1. Stone ax. Plan ahead. Visualize final form. Motor skill. Sequential actions - scripts. Communication? Social specialization?
          2. 2. Baldwinian evolution. Do you understand it?
          3. 3. See if same sound applied to diff't episodes? Is it possible? Star Trek & the Universal Translator.
          4. 4. Other explanations besides genetic. Innate vs. culture? Do we need an explanation for wanting money? Later we will see Fodor's critique.
      4. Consult pictures of the brain from handout (1/9) and online.

      5. Bownds, Biology of Mind, ch. 8, pp. 179-207

        1. Perceiving Mind
          1. 180.2 sidebar: What does he mean here? Unpack this locution.
          2. 180.9 sense / self
          3. 184.4 Why?? Evolutionarily necessary. Note how this applies to reading.
          4. 189-91. M & P pathways are the first stage in the what-where division. P. 196.
            Neisser's talk. His transit. 1967-86. Gibson is the where path. Constructive, schemata, etc., is the what path.
          5. Non-cs pcptn: "Mommy loves me."
          6. The binding problem. Crux.

      6. Reader-response theory
        1. Holland, "Where Is a Text?" Handout.
          1. GAP experience. "No God's eye view"--Bownds 11.5. Galleys. To be published in NLH.
          2. Trace out paths on Igor.
            Mysterious crossovers.
          3. What are consequences of this view?

  2. Session 3. January 23. What Is Language? We will explore the Chomskyan revolution.
    1. Pinker, Language Instinct, chs. 4-7,pp. 83-230.
    2. Fowler, "`Hard-Wired' Grammar Rules Found.'" Handout or available online: