The Emergence of Experience, Seminar Series Institute of Advanced Study University of Durham, 2014-2015
11 November 2014
Institute of Advanced Study, Seminar Room, 16.00-18.00

Marco Bernini:  Submerging minds: features and principles of Beckett’s broken emergencies

The recurring dehumanization or degeneration of Beckett’s characters’ mental faculties have largely been analysed as an ‘ostensible animalization’ (Weller, 2013: 18) of mankind. In contrast, this talk considers the creaturely level in Beckett’s narrative as occupied by undeveloped human cognisers – creatures that fail or refuse to properly emerge into what Beckett describes, in a letter to George Duthuit in 1948, as ‘the illusion of the human and the fully realized’ (2011: 86). By drawing on contemporary cognitive science (Howy 2014) and theories of emergence (Deacon 2011) this paper defines and examines what I call Beckett’s cognitive liminalism – his literary exploration of liminal (‘submerging’ rather than ‘emerging’) states of cognition and experience.

Rebecca Bitenc: Emergent forms of dementia narratives: media-conscious narratology and the Medical Humanities

Dementia has become ubiquitous in our times. Not only are more and more people affected by the disease, but it is represented across a wide range of media and genres. While the study of dementia has come to the fore in various disciplines – in the neurosciences in particular – so far the wide array of stories about the experience of dementia (by sufferers as well as caregivers) has not been systematically studied. A project of this sort falls within the domains of both narratology and the medical humanities, and indeed requires building cross-disciplinary connections between these domains.

This workshop presentation will consider recent examples of dementia narratives – from graphic memoir to filmic documentary – to showcase the potential gains of creating such cross-disciplinary dialogue. On the one hand, new tools and concepts from a media-conscious narratology can be leveraged for medical humanities research and contribute to a more analytically rigorous study of narrative forms across modes and media. On the other hand, the preoccupations of the medical humanities, as well as emergent forms of illness narratives themselves, highlight the limits of narrative as heuristic tool for understanding or portraying certain kinds of experiences, and thus present important research challenges for narratologists.


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