Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

May 17 2013

Reflections on the Past Semester

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Though I’ve always been interested in questions of consciousness and self, before this semester I had never focused on these themes in literature in such an organized way. Reading poetry and fiction had taught me that subjective truths weren’t necessarily less real than objective ones, but I did not think of subjectivity as a process that could be analyzed objectively. Through reading “neuro novels,” as well as researching synesthesia, I have come to understand subjectivity and objectivity as two sides of the same coin rather than as a binary of opposites. We often use the term “subjective” to suggest that something is not necessarily true. However, as Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment demonstrates, subjective consciousness may actually be the material that gives rise to and determines reality.

I think that my favorite book of the semester, by far, was Mrs. Dalloway. The metaphor of consciousness as a wave that washes over our surroundings–as opposed to more fixed conceptions of consciousness, like Damasio’s–has influenced my reading of books not only for this course but in others and in my own private reading. It has even affected the way I understood several films I’ve watched since reading Mrs. Dalloway, most notably Leviathon. I think that this novel is a must for any future course on “neuronarrative” literature.

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May 14 2013

Draft of Introduction to My Web Page, “Synesthesia and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper'”

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For more than a century, readers have interpreted Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a story about hysteria and women’s struggle to achieve freedom. Critics debate whether the narrator’s madness creates or is brought on by the reality she lives in. But there are other ways we can pick at the narrator’s brain. The narrator evidently has a condition known as synesthesia, a phenomenon where the brain perceives a stimulus in a sensory modality (or in modalities) that in most people it does not. This explains why she describes the yellow color of her bedroom wallpaper in terms of smell.

In the following web pages we will learn about the difference between literal and literary synesthesia, explore evidence for literal synesthesia as a real phenomenon, examine evidence for the narrator’s synesthesia in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” analyze the author’s use of literary synesthesia, and draw connections between literary synesthesia, the narrator’s literal synesthesia, and Gilman’s critique of patriarchy.

 

Artwork by Corey R. Tabor, formatted from original to fit page.

http://coreyrtaborillustration.blogspot.com/2012/01/synesthesia-how-these-things-are-made.html

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May 14 2013

Reflections on Final Project Feedback/Plans for Web Project

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In the feedback on my research project, Professor Tougaw pointed out several flaws in my essay that, had they not been brought to my attention, I probably never would have pushed myself to correct. I agree that my essay fails to sufficiently connect my analysis of synesthesia as a condition and Gilman’s portrayal of synesthesia to Gilman’s critique of patriarchy. I also agree that some of my points are distracting, and that I don’t spend enough time examining the narrator’s consciousness and Gilman’s use of literary synesthesia.

I have already begun to work on the web component of my project. So far, I’ve set up pages that summarize “The Yellow Wallpaper,” provide fMRI evidence for literal synesthesia, and discuss literary synesthesia. But, in light of the weaknesses in my essay, I need to talk more about literary synesthesia and the ways in which it is used in “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I will also need to analyze the symptoms of the narrator’s synesthesia more thoroughly, and draw stronger connections between this condition (and literary synesthesia) and Gilman’s critique of patriarchy. Also, I need to explain exactly what patriarchy is in this story and how it is depicted.

One response so far

May 07 2013

Reflections on My Research Paper

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Overall I am satisfied with the final revised version of my research paper. I think that compared to my first draft I have analyzed my sources more thoroughly and stitching paragraphs together more effectively. However, I think that the prose style of my essay can still be improved. Maybe adapting my essay to the web will help solve some of these issues. I am still figuring out how to use WordPress for my web project, but I have a few ideas for how I might adapt my essay to web media.

For example, during my research process, I came across a brief YouTube video by a respected neuroscientist on what we can learn from synesthesia as a brain phenomenon. This might be interesting to integrate with my Jamie Ward source, which explains synesthesia as “a window into, among other things, how conscious experiences are created” (69). Since synesthesia can be difficult to imagine for non-synesthestes, I’ll also search around for helpful illustrations.

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May 07 2013

Words Guide Thoughts in “Sorrows of an American” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

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In Siri Hustvedt’s novel Sorrows of an American, there is a scene where Erik asks Inga about the Inside Gotham tabloid article in which details on her late husband’s private life are expected to appear. She goes into a brief explanation of consciousness, and says that in her book she discusses “the way we organize perceptions into stories with beginnings, middles, and ends, how our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they are reimagined in words” (47). Inga’s understanding of language is that it creates a track on which our minds can run and without which we could not think linearly. She explains that even time itself “is a property of language, syntax, and tense” (47), arguing that reality as we perceive it is constructed by language.

Similarly, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator tries to escape her oppression by tearing down the wallpaper of her room–which, according to Paula Treichler, represents language as a tool to oppress women. Language, in this interpretation, is the front on which women fight the patriarchy for the right to self-expression. Language is essential to the struggle to achieve freedom, and is also at the core of the social imbalance that causes madness. By tearing down the wallpaper, by documenting her thoughts in her journal, and–I argue in my research paper–by being a color-olfaction synesthete, the narrator rebels against patriarchal norms and “creates in her brain a world that makes sense to her, and in doing so rewrites the rules of what is legitimate and real” (11).

One response so far

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.

 

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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)

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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.

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