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The Elusive BrainLiterary Experiments in the Age of Neuroscience$
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Jason Tougaw

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300221176

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300221176.001.0001

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Touching Brains in the Neuronovel

Touching Brains in the Neuronovel

(p.156) 5 Touching Brains in the Neuronovel
The Elusive Brain

Jason Tougaw

Yale University Press

In contemporary fiction, the appearance of a physical brain leads swiftly to explicit focus on questions that proliferate from the explanatory gap. Writers don’t use the term, but they explore and contextualize its implications in considerable detail. In this chapter, Tougaw examine the portrayal of those three pounds of intricately designed flesh in five novels: Thomas Harris’s Hannibal (1999), Ian McEwan’s Saturday (2006), Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American (2009), John Wray’s Lowboy (2010), and Maud Casey’s The Man Who Walked Away (2014). These novels are representative of a common literary phenomenon: the dramatization of a fantasy whereby touching brains may reveal the stuff of which self is made. In each of these novels, the representation of physical brains provokes questions about the relationship between physiology and the self that become central to narrative closure.

Keywords:   Material interiority, Neuronovel, Revisionist mystery, Physical brain, Immaterial self

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