FFC 100.26: Neuroscience
and Literature: A Cognitive Approach to
Professor Richard Ruppel, Fall 2018
Meetings: Tuesday/Thursday 2:30-3:45pm – Argyros Forum 206 C
Office: 428 N. Glassell, 101
Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday 11-12pm, & by appointment
Phone: (714) 997-6754 (office)
Updated July 30, 2018
Course Description & Objectives: Literature has always been centrally concerned with character—Odysseus: clever, loyal, very stubborn; Don Quixote: chivalrous, honorable, slightly crazy; Hamlet: noble, bitter, deeply conflicted; Satan: proud, rebellious, grandly wicked; Elizabeth Bennet: bright, witty, affectionate; Mrs. Dalloway: so changeable, so psychologically rich, she can barely be contained within the novel. As readers, we know the characters in stories and novels better than we know our friends and family, better, sometimes, than we know ourselves. A cognitive approach to literature attempts to account for this and other miracles of reading. This semester, we’ll look at short stories from a cognitive perspective, informed by our readings in Oliver Sacks’s case studies and in articles concerned with neuroscience and literature, to explore discoveries in neuroscience that shed light on how writers write and readers read.
This course involves significant reading and writing, both informal (on our discussion board) and more formal (reflection essays). It will be important for you to stay on top of the course assignments.
Course Learning Outcomes:
· We will explore and begin to understand identity, narrative, memory, and other concepts from both a literary and a neuroscientific perspective.
· We will hone our ability to think, read, and write critically about literature.
FFC Program Learning Outcome: The student critically analyzes and communicates complex issues and ideas.
Oliver Sacks. The
Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat.
All other readings will be online and in the “Contents” section of our Blackboard pages.
Attendance: Please make every
effort to attend class. Missing more than four sessions will adversely affect
your grade, and students who miss six or more classes will fail the course.
Communication: Whether online or in class, please be courteous and constructive. I receive a large number of emails, so when emailing, please identify the course (FFC), your last name, and the subject in the subject line. I will respond promptly to your emails; please respond promptly to mine.
Reflective Essays: We will discuss criteria for the reflective essays well before they are due. (Click here for a detailed definition of a reflective essay, with advice about how to approach it. There is a sample reflection, on memory, in our Blackboard “Contents” section.) Generally, you will be asked to reflect on the ways clinical, neurological studies inform our understanding of literature. These essays should be submitted in hard copy and electronically, sent directly to my email address: email@example.com. (Please don't use the Blackboard Drop-Box.)
Late reflections will receive reduced grades, and I will not accept papers submitted more than a week late unless you provide a convincing explanation. To pass this course, you must complete all four reflections. If you are having difficulty completing a paper or a Blackboard post, let me know.
I will accept a revision of one of your reflections, but you must schedule a conference with me to discuss that revision before you submit it. I will average the grade of the original paper and the revision.
Presentations: Each of you will make two presentations with two or three partners. For the first, you will find one short story, case study, or critical essay for us to read beforehand and then lead a discussion of that work. For the second, you will select a short story for us to read and then lead a discussion.
Blackboard Discussion Board Posts: I will assign Blackboard Discussion responses for many of the assigned readings. These responses will be due before we discuss the readings in class.
Minutes: Each of you will take minutes for two sessions, with a partner. These will be due Monday of the following week, and I will then post them in Blackboard.
3 Reflections: 15% each
2 Presentations: 10% each
*This is primarily your grade on the Blackboard Discussion Board posts. Here are my criteria for evaluating your posts:
1. The posting should respond as specifically as possible to the
prompt (or you should indicate why you’re modifying the prompt).
2. The posting should reveal close engagement with the work under discussion.
3. The posting should contribute to the discussion, so later postings should not simply repeat earlier postings, and they should reflect some engagement with earlier postings.
4. Postings should be brief but substantive.
Computers & tablets in class: If you use a computer or tablet to take class notes, you may use it, but it may only be used for class purposes. Otherwise, it should stay closed.
Phones must be silenced and kept in purses or pockets.
Chapman University Academic Integrity Policy:
Chapman University is a community of scholars that emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including dismissal. (See the "Undergraduate Catalog" for the full policy.)
Chapman's Students with Disabilities Policy:
In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any
condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to
perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning
of the term. The University, through the Disability
Services Office, will work with the appropriate faculty member who is asked to
provide the accommodations for a student in determining what accommodations are
suitable based on the documentation and the individual student needs. The
granting of any accommodation will not be retroactive and cannot jeopardize the
academic standards or integrity of the course.
Please see me if you have ANY concerns about completing any of the requirements of this course.
Equity and Diversity Policy
Chapman Equity and Diversity Policy:
Chapman University is committed to ensuring equality and valuing diversity. Students and professors are reminded to show respect at all times as outlined in Chapman’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy. Any violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the Dean of Students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy.
Week 1 – August 28-30: Introduction, Illness, & Identity
Week 2 – September 4-6: Illness & Identity
Week 3 – September 11-13: Illness & Identity.
Week 4 – September 18-20: Tuesday, meet in Leatherby Library, 305. First student presentation Sept. 20.
Week 5 – September 25- 27: Illness & Identity; second student presentation September 29. [3-5 page reflection on “Illness” and/or “Identity” due Sept. 27]
Week 6 – October 2-4: Illness & Identity; third student presentation Oct 4.
Week 7 – October 9-11: Memory; fourth student presentation Oct 11. [Library presentation October 9.]
Week 8 – October 16-18: Memory; fifth student presentation Oct 18.
Week 9 – October 23-25: Memory; sixth student presentation Oct 25.
Week 10 – October 30-November 1: Perceptions; seventh student presentation Nov. 1.
Week 11 – November 6-8: [3-5
page reflection on “Memory” due Nov 8] Perceptions;
presentation Nov. 8.
Week 12 – November 13-15: Perceptions.
Week 13 – November 27-29: Groups 1-3 present their short stories Thursday, Nov.29.
Week 14 – December 4-6: Groups 4-6 present their stories Tuesday, December 4. Groups 7-8 present on their stories Thursday, December 6. [3-5 page reflection on “Perceptions” due December 6]
Week 15 – Thursday, December 13: Final—1:30-4pm.
*This syllabus may change, but I'll give you plenty of notice, and I'll keep the syllabus updated on the Web.
For Thursday, August 30: Read Oliver Sacks, “The Disembodied Lady” (43-54).
Illness & Identity: “The Disembodied Lady,” “The Man who Fell out of Bed,” “Witty Ticcy Ray,” “Cupid’s Disease,” “A Matter of Identity,” “Yes, Father-Sister,” “The Possessed,” “Murder,” “The Visions of Hildegard,” “Rebecca,” “A Walking Grove,” “The Twins,” “The Autist Artist,” “A Bolt from the Blue” (in The New Yorker, July 23, 2007). A near-death experience leads a physician to an obsession with music and a new life. Discussion of schizophrenia, beginning with his brother Michael.
Memory: “The Lost Mariner,” “Reminiscence,” “A Passage to India,” “The Abyss: Music and Amnesia” (in The New Yorker, September 24, 2007)
Perceptions: “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat,” “Hands,” “On the Level,” “Eyes Right!” “The President’s Speech,” “The Dog Beneath the Skin”
Identity: Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”
Memory: Rudyard Kipling, “The Finest Story in the World”; Vladimir Nabokov, “First Love,” (Still Life with gilt Beer Tankard, Willem Claesz 1634 Borges); Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes.” [Content]; H.G. Wells, “The Door in the Wall” [audio recording]; Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle”
Perceptions: Henry James, “The Turn of the Screw.” [Scene from the 1999 BBC television adaptation, with Colin Firth and Jodhi May. The Innocents, the entire 1961 adaptation of the story with Deborah Kerr as the governess – a much admired film.] Conrad Aiken, “Silent Snow, Secret Snow.”
Illness: “Literature & the History of Neuroscience,” Mary Harrington. "Sacred Dangers: Nabokov's Distorted Reflection in "Signs and Symbols," by David Field, from Studies in Short Fiction (June, 1988): 285-293. In Blackboard, “Contents.” Anne Stiles on “The Rest Cure: 1873-1925.” From the NY Times, October 15, 2015. “The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa.” A description of the treatment of mental illness in parts of Africa. NPR article concerned with the city of Geel, in Belgium, where people with schizophrenia are taken in by the town’s residents.
Identity: “The Neuroscience of Immortality: Mileposts on a Long, Uncharted Road.” Amy Harmon. New York Times, 9/12/2015. “Will You Ever be able to Upload your Brain?” Kenneth Miller. New York Times, 10/10/2015.
· Tourette Syndrome: Described by young people.
· The parietal and occipital lobes. In “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” Dr. P’s strange agnosia (inability to interpret and process sensations) was caused by progressive damage to his occipital lobe.
· On writing a reflection paper.
· Alva Noë, “How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience.” Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 8, 2015.
· Feats of memory: Jake. Deficits of memory: Video of a man (and his family) suffering from retrograde amnesia. Brief lecture on H. M., the most famous example of a man suffering from the condition. Brief description of the career of Brenda Milner, the person most responsible for creating the field of neuropsychology and an expert on memory. Alan Alda’s story about EP, another famous person suffering from retrograde amnesia. Clive Wearing. More on Clive Wearing.
· Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly collection.
· “How the Brain Works.”
· Peter Brook, The Man Who. A play based on The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. Performed by Duke University students.
· Vincent Canby theatre review of The Man Who. March 15, 1995, New York Times.
Neuroanatomy and neurotransmitters
· Cross-section of the brain showing the basal ganglia, thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus.
· Neurotransmitters: Dopamine.
“The Yellow Wallpaper”