Archive for April, 2013

Apr 30 2013

Research Project: Plan for Revision

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–Add a title.

–Add page numbers

–Expand transitions to improve stitching.

–Add citations where they are missing.

–Combine first two paragraphs on page three.

–Strengthen spine of essay by making the similarities and differences between literary and literal synesthesia–refer to O’Malley and Ward sources–into an organizing question.  Change thesis to explore this question. Emphasize that understanding  literary and literal synesthesia will help the reader better understand the theme of women’s struggle to achieve freedom in “The Yellow Wallpaper” by offering a window into literature as well as “a window into…how conscious experiences are created” (Ward), respectively.

–Explain more thoroughly how evidence of synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper” helps us understand the narrator’s consciousness. Strengthen the connection between Gilman’s representation of consciousness and her feminist critique.

–Refer to Synesthesia: Perspectives from Cognitive Neuroscience to provide a more accurate explanation of the fMRI experiments on synesthetes than the one provided by paraphrasing the primary source.

–Change some of the language used to introduce sources in order to more accurately express stance in relation to them.

 

One response so far

Apr 26 2013

Letter to Editors of The New York Times in Response Article “Can ‘Neuro Lit Crit’ Save the Humanities?”

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To the Editors,

The experts who responded on your blog site to the question of whether  neuroscience and cognitive science will “energize literature departments, and, more broadly, generate excitement for the humanities” generally talk about the ways in which “neuro lit” is or is not the “Next Big Thing” to hit the world of literature. They seem to explain scientific research as outside the realm of literature. But who says that was ever the case?

We can all find an article of scientific research in a haystack of novels. And we all know the difference between the English and neuroscience departments in universities. But who is to say that science and literature are fundamentally different academic disciplines? The term literature, in my view, includes any text. The main distinction between a scientific article and a short story is not so much the words on the page but the way we understand those words–the way we read those words.

Siri Hustvedt has been criticized for blurring the lines between fact–which is a presupposition in itself–and fiction in her own memoir, The Shaking Woman. But maybe she was on to something.

3 responses so far

Apr 23 2013

Annotated Bibliography (Research Paper)

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Ford, Karen. “’The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Women’s Discourse.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 4.2 (1985): 309-14. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

The author provides a brief overview and extension of Paula Treichler’s analysis of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” She offers several useful examples of patriarchal structures and oppression of women in the story. I will use this source to identify the gender disparity that is so embedded in the environment and people of the story.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 2: Ass Kissing

 

Kemeny, Margaret E. “The Psychobiology of Stress.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12.4 (2003): 124-29. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Margaret Kemeny, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, discusses the way social stresses can result in physiological/psychobiological changes. She explains that “subordinate animals who have low social status” demonstrate several biochemical and physiological changes in the brain more frequently than their dominant counterparts, and that awareness of low social status as well as low “social self-esteem” seems to “play an important role in these effects” (128). I will use this source, coupled with the one by Aleksandra Rogowska, to suggest that the protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” may have acquired synesthesia as a result of changes in the brain that resulted from an awareness of her lower social status as a woman.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 3: Piggybacking

Strategy 8: Crossbreeding with Something New

 

Nunn, J. A., L. J. Gregory, M. Brammer, S.C.R Williams, D. M. Parslow, M. J. Morgan, R. J. Morris, E. T. Bullmore, S. Baron-Cohen, and J. A. Gray. “Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Synesthesia: Activation of V4/V8 by Spoken Words.” Nature Neuroscience 5 (2002): 371-75. 25 Feb. 2002. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

About a decade ago, a team of researchers discovered that certain spoken words activated the “color center” in the brain known as V4/V8 in subjects with one particular form of synesthesia. They concluded that, when presented with certain verbal stimuli, these subjects perceive corresponding colors consistently. I will use this source as evidence to show that synesthesia is a real phenomenon.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 8: Crossbreeding with Something New

 

O’Malley, Glenn. “Literary Synesthesia.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 15.4 (1957): 391-411. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

The author provides a definition of literary synesthesia as well as examples of the way synesthesia is used as a literary device in various works of literature. In particular, the author explains that Dante’s use of “intersense metaphor” in The Divine Comedy, and other similar uses of literary synesthesia, ought to be examined for underlying poetic and philosophical meaning. I will use this source as evidence that where synesthesia appears in literature it ought to be viewed as a symbol.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 2: Ass Kissing

Strategy 3: Piggybacking

 

Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Boston: Small & Maynard, 1899. N.         pag. Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.

This text is the primary source that my essay will analyze. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story about a woman’s experience of what appears to be madness. Synesthesia as a clinical phenomenon is also apparent in this story, but has hardly been critically analyzed. I will draw evidence for the protagonist’s synesthesia from this text to ultimately explain through the lens of synesthesia the much more frequently examined theme of women’s struggle to achieve freedom.

                        Mark GaipaStrategy 7: Dropping Out

 

Rogowska, Aleksandra. “Categorization of Synesthesia.” Review of General Psychology 15.3 (2011): 213-27. PsycARTICLES. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Dr. Aleksandra Rogowska, a researcher in the Department of Physical Education and Physiotherapy at the Opole University of Technology, provides an overview of the various forms of synesthesia and their causes. She explains that no two people experience synesthesia the same way, and that, according to research, synesthetes who experience color synesthetically have increased sensitivity to color. She also explains that one form of synesthesia, “Acquired synaesthesia or postaccidental synaesthesia,” can arise involuntarily during adulthood following a biochemical or otherwise neurological change in the brain. I will use this source to support my argument that the heightened sensitivity of the protagonist in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to the yellow wallpaper may be the result of acquired synesthesia, and illustrates the perceptual gender divide between the protagonist and her husband. I will also use this source to suggest that the protagonist’s condition was caused by a biochemical/neurological event during adulthood.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 3: Piggybacking

Strategy 8: Crossbreeding with Something New

 

Sidis, Boris. “An Inquiry into the Nature of Hallucinations: I.” Psychological Review 11.1 (1904): 15-29. PsycARTICLES. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

Five years after “The Yellow Wallpaper” was first published, Boris Sidis, a noted American psychologist and psychiatrist, wrote that synesthesia is a form of hallucination in its simplest state. I will use this source to demonstrate that synesthesia was a known phenomenon around the time that “The Yellow Wallpaper” was published, and to suggest that Charlotte Perkins Gilman may have been aware of synesthesia as a real condition. I will also use this understanding of synesthesia as a basic form of hallucination to consider the symbolic meaning of synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

Mark Gaipa Strategy 4: Leapfrogging

Strategy 8: Crossbreeding with Something New

 

 

Treichler, Paula A. “Escaping the Sentence: Diagnosis and Discourse in “The Yellow Wallpaper”” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 3.1/2 (1984): 61-77. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Paula Treichler, professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and African Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, analyzes “The Yellow Wallpaper” through a feminist lens as a story of “social and economic conditions which drive the narrator—and potentially all women—to madness” (64). She explains the yellow wallpaper as a symbol with implications for the narrator’s position within patriarchal society. I will use this source to suggest, along the lines of Margaret E. Kemeny’s article, that the social stresses that may have caused the narrator’s synesthesia may very well have been a result of her status within the patriarchy. This angle is somewhat opposed to that of Treichler, who prefers to view the story with a focus on socio-economics instead of psychology. And while Treichler focuses on the narrator’s creative use of language as a form of resistance against the patriarchy and an extension of women’s domain, I will borrow this interpretation and similarly apply it to the narrator’s synesthesia.

Mark Gaipa Strategy 3: Piggybacking

Strategy 4: Leapfrogging

 

Ward, Jamie. “Synesthesia.” Annual Review of Psychology 64 (2013): 49-75. Annual Reviews. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

Jamie Ward, a researcher at the University of Sussex in the U.K., provides a general overview of synesthesia. Contrary to Boris Sidis, he explains that synesthetic experience is unlike illusions and hallucinations.  He also writes that during the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century there was a sharp increase in the number of reported cases of synesthesia, and that the scientific establishment’s notion of synesthesia during the 1890’s was similar to what it is today.  I will use this source primarily as evidence that Gilman may have been aware of synesthesia as a clinical condition. I will also use it to analyze the symbolic meaning of synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

 

Mark Gaipa Strategy 3: Piggybacking

Strategy 8: Crossbreeding with Something New

One response so far

Apr 18 2013

Gay Orthodox Panel Event 4/24

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Hey everyone, here is the flyer for a panel event I am organizing and speaking at. Everyone is welcome to join.

Queens College Gay Panel(2)

No responses yet

Apr 18 2013

Character vs. Personality

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Character is oftentimes confused with personality, presumably because both character and personality are reflected in a person’s behavior. Someone who has a tendency to respond angrily to stimuli can be said to have an irritable personality as well as bad character. But there is a difference. Personality is something that, from what I understand, does not change much over the course of a lifetime. There are certain qualities we see in children–mental patterns that underlie certain behaviors but do not always dictate them–that continue on into adulthood. These patterns, taken together, constitute personality.

Character, however, is something that is far more alterable. It is something to be “built,” something that can mature over time with work. For this reason, it is common for people to be described as having “good” or “bad” character, but not a “good” or “bad” personality.

2 responses so far

Apr 14 2013

Analysis of a Passage from Aleksandra Rogowska’s “Categorization of Synesthesia” (Research Project)

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In “Categorization of Synesthesia,” an article from the Review of General Psychology, Aleksandra Rogowska writes, “Acquired synaesthesia or postaccidental synaesthesia occurs independently and unwittingly during adulthood as a result of biochemical brain changes, neurological dysfunctions, or permanent damage done to the nerve as a result of accident or disease (such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or migraines; Jacome, 1999; Podoll & Robinson, 2002; Rao, Nobre, Alexander, & Ceowy, 2007; Ro et al., 2007; Villemure, Wassimi, Bennett, Shir, & Bushnell, 2006)…The phenomenon of synaesthesia becomes constantly present in perceptual processes from the very moment of its first occurrence” (215).

In other words, Rogowska explains that  changes in the brain during adulthood can result in permanent synesthesia. Thus, according to this explanation–and an understanding that stresses can alter the brain, which Margaret E. Kemeny explains in her article “The Psychobiology of Stress” (128)–the phenomenon of synesthesia may come about as a result of social stresses that cause biochemical/neurological change. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” it is possible that the protagonist’s synesthesia has developed “independently and unwittingly” as a result of her social situation, which is comprised almost exclusively of her husband.  This form of synesthesia might explain the protagonist’s seemingly spontaneous symptoms of hallucination. And it would also fit well with literary criticism that explains “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a story about women’s struggle against oppressive patriarchy.

Works Cited

Kemeny, Margaret E. “The Psychobiology of Stress.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12.4 (2003): 124-29. JSTOR. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

Rogowska, Aleksandra. “Categorization of Synesthesia.” Review of General Psychology 15.3 (2011): 213-27. PsycARTICLES. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

4 responses so far

Apr 14 2013

John Wray’s “Lowboy” Captures the Schizophrenic Mind through Free Indirect Discourse

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In John Wray’s novel Lowboy, which is about the misadventures of a schizophrenic teenager in the New York City subway system, the author exposes the schizophrenic mind through the use of a narrative method known as “free indirect discourse.” Free indirect discourse is a style of third-person narration that contains first-person thoughts and speech. When done correctly, it can transport the reader from an objective perspective to the subjective point-of-view of the character without using quotation marks.

For instance, on pages 93-94, when Lowboy is on the train heading toward his love interest, Emily, the narrator explains, “Unreality broke over him again, stronger and more emphatic than before, but this time he was able to endure it. It’s a wave, that’s all, he told himself. A wave like any other. You can ride it like a surfer if you want to.” Had the narrator directly explained the protagonist’s thoughts, the effect would be different: the reader would not be examining Lowboy’s mind but would instead be examining the narrator’s assessment of Lowboy’s mind.

It is also interesting that on page 94 the narrator provides the reader with Lowboy’s mental map of the train car. In a sense, this illustration is a form of free indirect discourse, too; the narrator shows us (third-person narration) a picture Lowboy produces in his mind (first-person).

3 responses so far

Apr 10 2013

Project Proposal (Draft Two)

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the protagonist suffers from what many readers quickly identify as madness. She experiences hallucinations while shut up in the attic of her summer home. She sees patterns in the wallpaper of her room that others do not, and sometimes catches a glimpse of a figure, “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (Gilman). Perhaps most interesting—and perhaps unrelated to these symptoms of madness—she experiences her wallpaper’s yellow color synesthetically in terms of smell. She describes it as “Such a peculiar odor, too…The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell” (Gilman).This leads me to my research question: what role does synesthesia play in the story?

Last semester, I read “The Yellow Wallpaper” for the first time in an American literature survey class. We studied the text and the protagonist with a primary focus on the feminist issues they raised. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is widely discussed in terms of hysteria, an antiquated and sometimes misogynistic term for a disorder which falls under a spectrum of conditions now known as “conversion disorders.” However, research that thoroughly analyzes the story through the lens of synesthesia has not yet been published. With the help of modern scientific research, I think that an examination of the protagonist’s synesthesia could reveal nuances that have been overlooked in the past.

Specifically, I plan to examine the way Gilman uses synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to illustrate conflict by both literal and figurative means. The way the protagonist’s husband responds with disbelief to her claims about the behavior and qualities of the wallpaper has more obvious implications for her role as a woman in the relationship. But what does synesthesia, a phenomenon where the subject experiences an out-of-the-ordinary crossing of perceptions—where s/he perceives something completely different from what others perceive—mean symbolically? At this stage of my research, my hypothesis is that synesthesia is an ideal mental/neurological phenomenon for driving home the story’s more frequently examined theme of women’s struggle to achieve freedom.

To investigate further I will need sources in the form of both scientific research and literary criticism. In the last decade or so, scientific evidence for synesthesia has arisen through research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); I have already obtained a scientific article titled  “Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Synesthesia: Activation of V4/V8 by Spoken Words,” which will hopefully help demonstrate synesthesia as a real phenomenon. I will also need sources that identify and explain the subjective experience of synesthesia and provide a general overview of the condition, such as “Synesthesia” by James Ward. It will be useful to find sources on the history of synesthesia as a diagnosis and on how synesthesia was viewed in medical as well as social spheres in Gilman’s days (could Gilman have been aware of such a phenomenon?). Also, debates in the scientific community about the degree to which synesthesia is fixed or related to social context would be useful in examining the potential nature/root of the protagonist’s synesthesia. I have also located an article titled “An Inquiry into the Nature of Hallucinations: I,” which was published five years after “The Yellow Wallpaper” and explains, “Hallucinations are secondary sensations. The simplest state of hallucination is found in the phenomena of synesthesia” (Sidis). I will consider the synesthesia in this story as a basic form of hallucination, and what that may mean for the theme of women’s struggle for freedom. Synesthesia as a literary device—what the device involves and/or signifies in literature—is discussed in “Literary Synesthesia” by Glenn O’Malley. And finally, I will need a source that analyzes the theme of women’s freedom in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to bridge the gap between scientific and literary analyses.

 

Works Cited:

Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Boston: Small & Maynard, 1899. N. pag. Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.

Sidis, Boris. “An Inquiry into the Nature of Hallucinations: I.” Psychological Review 11.1 (1904): 15-29. PsycARTICLES. Web. 9 Apr. 2013.

One response so far

Apr 07 2013

Research Project Proposal (Draft One)

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In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the protagonist suffers from what many readers quickly identify as madness. She experiences hallucinations while shut up in the attic of her summer home. She sees patterns in the wallpaper of her room that others do not, and sometimes catches a glimpse of a figure, “a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design” (Gilman). Perhaps most interesting—and perhaps unrelated to these symptoms of madness—she experiences her wallpaper’s yellow color synesthetically in terms of smell and emotion. This leads me to my research question: what role does synesthesia play in the story?

Last semester, I read “The Yellow Wallpaper” for the first time in an American literature survey class. We studied the text and the protagonist with a primary focus on the feminist issues they raised. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is widely discussed in terms of hysteria, an antiquated and sometimes misogynistic term for a disorder which falls under a spectrum of conditions now known as “conversion disorders.” However, research that thoroughly analyses the story through the lens of synesthesia has not yet been published. With the help of modern scientific research, I think that an examination of the protagonist’s synesthesia could reveal nuances that have been overlooked in the past.

Specifically, I plan to examine the way Gilman uses synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper” to illustrate conflict by both literal and figurative means. The way the protagonist’s husband responds with disbelief to her claims about the behavior and qualities of the wallpaper has more obvious implications for her role as a woman in the relationship. But what does synesthesia, a phenomenon where the subject experiences an out-of-the-ordinary crossing of perceptions—where s/he perceives something completely different from what others perceive—mean symbolically? Why is synesthesia an ideal mental/neurological phenomenon for driving home the themes of the story?

To investigate further I will need sources in the form of both scientific research and literary criticism. In the last decade or so, scientific evidence for synesthesia has arisen through research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); a scientific article on this would help demonstrate synesthesia as a real phenomenon. Also, debates in the scientific community about the degree to which synesthesia is fixed and related to social context would be useful. So would articles that identify and explain the subjective experience of synesthesia. Finally, sources on synesthesia as a literary device and on the themes of “The Yellow Wallpaper” will be necessary to bridge the gap between scientific and literary analysis.

 

Works Cited:

Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Boston: Small & Maynard, 1899. N. pag. Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.

One response so far

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