Related Events – Neurohumanities Research Group

The NEUROHUMANITIES RESEARCH GROUP (Duke Institute for Brain Science [DIBS] and Franklin Humanities Institute [FHI]) invites your participation in a fall 2011 semester of events on READING AND THE BRAIN

October 7

10am, FHI Garage: A Conversation with Stanislas Dehaene – faculty and graduate students welcome!
(The FHI Garage = Room C105, Bay 4, 1st Floor, Smith Warehouse)

12pm, Perkins 217: Lecture: Stanislas Dehaene, “Reading in the Brain”

Stanislas Dehaene, Professor and Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology at the Collège de France, outlines a “neuro-cultural” approach to reading. As Oliver Sacks notes of Reading in the Brain, “The act of reading is so easily taken for granted that we forget what an astounding feat it is. How can a few black marks on white paper evoke an entire universe of meanings?” Dehaene’s paradigm of reading has been featured on NPR and a host of other media venues.

* Co-sponsored by the Center for French and Francophone Studies

Optional Preparatory Reading, Introduction and Chapter 1 from Dehaene’s Reading in the Brain available here.

November 3

2pm, FHI Garage: Natalie Phillips, “Attention and Distraction: A Cognitive Approach to Literary Focus”

Natalie Phillips, Assistant Professor of English at Michigan State University, specializes in distraction in 18th-century British literature and culture, and in cognitive approaches to literature. Her first book project, Distraction: Problems of Attention in Eighteenth-Century Literature, explores how changing Enlightenment ideas about the unfocused mind reshaped literary form, arguing that descriptions of distraction in fiction advanced—and often complicated—scientific theories of concentration.  She is also developing and conducting an fMRI study at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging on neural differences between different levels of attention in the reading of fiction.

Her talk, “Attention and Distraction: A Cognitive Approach to Literary Focus,” brings together two crucial impulses in cognitive cultural studies—the history of cognition and the neuroscience of reading—to discuss a central problem in literary studies: the nature of attention.  Tracing points of connection, conflict and inspiration in two ongoing research projects on eighteenth-century concentration, she makes an argument for the methodological benefits of integrating cognitive cultural studies and eighteenth-century criticism, and explore the role of scientific methodologies in the humanities.

December 6

12pm, FHI Garage: NRG Brownbag & Roundtable Discussion

Following up on a Nov. 12th National Endowment for the Humanities satellite panel on neuroscience and the humanities with Duke faculty Deborah Jenson, Michael Platt, and Lasana Harris, this roundtable will engage with the problem of how we read the brain, through an exploration of available technologies (including literature), dominant neuroscientific and semiotic tropes, and the ethics and politics of  literacies and “illiteracies” in world historical cultures

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