Siri Hustvedt in Conversation with Antonio Damasio

Siri Hustvedt used to teach at Queens College–FYI. She’s published six novels, many of them exploring connections between art and science.

As she describes it here, Hustvedt has an “abiding interest” in neuroscience. In this discussion with Antonio Damasio, she talks about the biology of consciousness and nineteenth-century roots of contemporary brain research.

Another Definition of Lyric Poetry

Here’s another, more traditional definition of lyric poetry, from Basics of English Studies at the University of Freiberg (Denmark). Notice how this more traditional definition also emphasizes the musical quality–and origins–of the lyric and its emphasis on subjective, perceptual experience. While lyricism is associated with short poems, it’s a technique that’s adapted for all kinds of genres, including narrative fiction, fiction, film, and television. I’d argue that a graphic narrative like Neurocomic also uses some lyric techniques, especially when it emphasizes what’s mysterious about the brain and mind.

A lyric poem is a comparatively short, non-narrative poem in which a single speaker presents a state of mind or an emotional state. Lyric poetry retains some of the elements of song which is said to be its origin: For Greek writers the lyric was a song accompanied by the lyre.

Subcategories of the lyric are, for example elegy, ode, sonnet and dramatic monologue and most occasional poetry:

In modern usage, elegy is a formal lament for the death of a particular person (for example Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H.). More broadly defined, the term elegy is also used for solemn meditations, often on questions of death, such as Gray‘s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

An ode is a long lyric poem with a serious subject written in an elevated style. Famous examples are Wordsworth’s Hymn to Duty or KeatsOde to a Grecian Urn.

The sonnet was originally a love poem which dealt with the lover’s sufferings and hopes. It originated in Italy and became popular in England in the Renaissance, when Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey translated and imitated the sonnets written by Petrarch (Petrarchan sonnet). From the seventeenth century onwards the sonnet was also used for other topics than love, for instance for religious experience (by Donne and Milton), reflections on art (by Keats or Shelley) or even the war experience (by Brooke or Owen). The sonnet uses a single stanza of (usually) fourteen lines and an intricate rhyme pattern (see stanza forms). Many poets wrote a series of sonnets linked by the same theme, so-called sonnet cycles (for instance Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, Drayton, Barret-Browning, Meredith) which depict the various stages of a love relationship.

Sense8 & the Wachowskis

I’m posting some video, partly to show you how easy it is to post video to a WordPress site and partly to give you some materials related to Sense8. To post, video from YouTube or Vimeo, just past the url into your post. So, first, here’s a panel discussion, on “What the Flick?,” of Episode 2, “I Am Also A We.” The discussion focuses on the premises of the show, but also the ways its directors, the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and J. Michael Straczynski, mix genres in the show. How many genres are at play in the show?

Finally, here is the eloquent speech Lana Wachowki’s gave when she received the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award. It’s clear that many of Wachowski’s ideals about justice are at play in Sense8. 

Finally, I’m posting the trailers for The Matrix and Cloud Atlas, two Wachowski films that explore many of the same themes as Sense8: body-mind relations, relational identity (the idea that our identities develop in relation to others), embodied (and disembodied) phenomenology), social justice, and the use of comic book conventions with big ideas from the history of philosophy (for example, “the brain in a vat” thought experiment).

Professor Chu’s Definition of Lyricism

9780674055179-lgIn her book Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep, Professor Chu offers a great–and lyrical!–definition of lyricism. I’m pasting her definition below. Based on her definition, look for lyrical representations of the brain in the texts we’re reading and viewing for next week’s class. Come to class prepared to discuss your ideas about at least one of these examples.

What makes a lyric poem ‘lyrical’ is a constellation of interrelated attributes that have characterized Anglophone poetry from the Renaissance (if not earlier) to the present. Lyric poetry is frequently soliloquy-like. Lyric voices speak from beyond ordinary time. Lyric poems are inhabited by situations and tableaux transcending ordinary temporality. Lyric descriptions are charged with depictive intensity. Lyric poetry is musically expressive. Lyric poems evoke heightened and eccentric states of consciousness.

–Seo-Young Chu, Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? A Science-Fictional Theory of Representation (2010)

Mary the Color Scientist

Galen Orwell (and an unidentified guest) on Frank Jackson’s famous thought experiment, Mary the Color Scientist, featured in David Lodge’s Thinks . . . The video also includes some artful dramatization of the story.

I will also just add that the premise of the thought experiment, like a lot of phlosophy’s thought experiments, is really cruel.


“Sensate” (Oxford English Dictionary)

sensate, adj.

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Pronunciation:  /ˈsɛnsət/
Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology: < late Latin sensātus gifted with sense, < sensus sense: see -ate suffix1 2.

 1. Endowed with physical sensation.

?a1534   H. Medwall Nature i. sig. biiiv, whom I haue power To do as all sensate bestys do.

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2. Of the nature of or involving sensation. Obs.

1677   T. Gale Court of Gentiles: Pt. III iii. 86   In his Theætetus he [Plato] laies down this as his opinion,..It seems to me, that he who knows any thing has a sensate cognition of what he knows.
1813   T. Busby tr. Lucretius Nature of Things I. iii. 290   That Fourth Principle..From whose power all sensate motions [L. sensiferos motus] flow.

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3. ? Endowed with sensibility. Obs.

1796   M. Robinson Angelina II. 264   Give me the sensate mind, that knows The vast extent of human woes!

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 4. Perceived by the senses.

1847   in Webster’s Amer. Dict. Eng. Lang. [Hence in later Dicts.]
1898   Westm. Gaz. 27 Sept. 3/1   Mr. Merriman, it would seem, is of those who hold that poetry co-exists with the least congenial of elements, being common to all sensate things.
sensate, v.
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Pronunciation:  /sɛnˈseɪt/
Frequency (in current use): 
Etymology: < Latin sensus sense n. + -ate suffix3, after sensation n.

 1. trans. To perceive by sense; to have a sensation of.

a1652   J. Smith Select Disc. (1821) iv. iv. 93   These corporeal motions, as they seem to arise from nothing else but merely from the machina of the body itself; so they could not at all be sensated but by the soul.
1665   R. Hooke Micrographia 179   Each of them can distinctly sensate or see onely those parts which are very neer perpendicularly oppos’d to it.
1889   Academy 16 Nov. 323/2   We find an irresistible impulse to find strain..or motion..of the ether wherever we sensate anything electrical.

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2. intr. To have sensation. Obs.

1672   W. Penn Spirit of Truth Vindicated 24   No man can live, move, sensate, or act but from the original Heat, Life, Motion and Action of that which did beget him.
1687   A. Lovell tr. C. de Bergerac Comical Hist. 112   When it finds only such, as are proper for sensation, it sensates.

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  senˈsating  n. and adj.

a1652   J. Smith Select Disc. (1660) v. iii. 138   Indeed without such an internal sensating Faculty as this is we should never know when our Souls are in conjunction with the Deity.
1888   H. W. Parker Spirit of Beauty 58   Sir John Lubbock’s experiments proved nothing but the simple sensating of certain crude colors by bees.



This site will be the online home for our course. We’ll use it to communicate and as a repository of course materials. Each of you will also create and author your own blog. I’ll post a set of links to those in the sidebar.

If I haven’t met you already, I look forward to that. And I’m really looking forward to working with you next year. The Honors Seminar is a great experience. There’s really nothing else quite like it at QC.

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