Prufrock's Page

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Neuroscience And The Novel

A.S. Byatt has an extremely thought-provoking essay -- in more ways than one -- in the TLS about how changes in the presentation of human nature over the ages have affected the novel. From characters with immortal souls to love being the only thing that matters to the life as the expression of the libido and the selfish gene, all of this has been grist to the mill of novelists. Now, of course, we stand at the frontiers of a new comprehension of the mind. As Byatt writes, "Neuroscience, and the study of the activity of the brain, is beginning to bring its own illumination to our understanding of how art works, and what it is. I have come to see the delight in making connections – of which metaphor-making is one of the most intense – as perhaps the fundamental reason for art and its pleasures."

In just a slightly different context, one can think of at least two other novelists who have been inspired by scientific studies of how consciousness works: David Lodge, in his Thinks... (also see his essay, Consciousness and the Novel) and Richard Powers, with his Galatea 2.2 as well as the more recent The Echo Maker.


Post a Comment

<< Home