Msnowe's Blog

One paragraph m.snowe likes

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on February 15, 2010

From Marco Roth’s essay in n+1 on “The Rise of the Neuronovel”:

“Many scientists and philosophers acknowledge that they understand more about how damaged brains work—or, rather, don’t work— than about the neurochemistry of the normal brain. And yet, in its popular journalistic form, the new reductionism can or will soon describe all human behavior, from warfare to soul-making. The British physician, philosopher, and neuro-skeptic Raymond Tallis has summarized the doctrine: ‘A convergence of evolutionary theory, neuroscience, and other biological disciplines has led countless thinkers to claim that we are best understood as organisms whose entire panoply of behavior is directly or indirectly related to organic survival.’”

Why we like this paragraph:

–m.snowe is fascinated with the idea of illustrative contrasts in fiction. From biblical Genesis on, the idea of a story fabricating/dreaming up dichotomies to better understand virtually unknowable quantities has always been there. We tell ourselves lies to see truth–and more so, we fictionalize one pole to make out its oppositely-inclined sibling. We leave the garden in order to understand paradise.

–It’s just neat to think that we understand psychosis more than we do the natural “healthy” state–we can tell what’s wrong but can’t conceptualize what’s entirely right, or at least what a rightly functioning consciousness looks like. This could be expanded in infinite ways.

–It implies what m.snowe usually finds true–characters whose behaviors are perhaps neurologically “damaged” are a pretty hot trend right now, and while she finds these characters interesting, sometimes the reader feels alienated because their psychoses are in some ways too reductive.

Why we like other parts of this essay:

–It discredits crap like “The Female Brain,” which, if you don’t remember, m.snowe didn’t respect. Mostly, the idea that “my hormones made me do it” made m.snowe’s gag reflex operate of its own accord.

–It does highlight a growing, albeit sometimes frightening, sometimes brilliantly executed need among writers to get lost completely inside the brains of their characters, while placing it in the literary traditions of the past and giving credit where credit is due (Dickens, Woolf, etc.).