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A growing number of memoirists—responding directly to the explosion in brain research in the last two decades—are experimenting with language and narrative forms that translate their subjective experience for readers. These memoirs ask, “what is it like to be autistic or epileptic, or 'locked in,' to suffer from profound amnesia or Alzheimer’s, or, for that matter, to be “neurotypical”? The brains whose stories these memoirs tell do not let their authors (or readers) forget that they are biological organisms. Where more traditional memoirs take selfhood for granted, brain memoirs investigate how mind, brain, body, and culture interact to create or perform selfhood, and that investigation has social, scientific, and philosophical implications. Because of this, understanding their significance is a multi-disciplinary project, one that seeks to understand how memoir, a cultural phenomenon, responds to biology and how biology might respond to memoir. This project grows out of a body of scholarly work and creative nonfiction that integrates literature and science, including a recently completed a brain memoir of my own, The One You Get: A Neurobiography (represented by Carrie Howland, at the literary agency Donadio & Olson).
I teach a variety of courses that explore relationships between the mind and literature, at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. These courses include "Dreams," "Consciousness and Literature," and "Introduction to Literary Study" as well as seminars on "Mind, Body, Memoir" and "Consciousness and Literary Experiment" at the CUNY Graduate Center. I have also taught the course on dreams as an Honors Seminar; the students in the Honors Seminar created a course web page representing the work they did for the course, entitled The Art and Science of Dreaming. The blog for my Graduate Center course "Consciousness and Literary Experiment" can be accessed here.
Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel (Routledge, 2006).
Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community, co-edited with Nancy K. Miller; introduction co-written with Miller (University of Illinois Press, 2002).
Fields of Reading, Motives for Writing 9th edition, co-edited with Comley et al. Bedford/St. Martin’s (2009).
“Dream Bloggers Invent the University.” Computers & Composition 26 (2009): 251 – 268.
“Aplysia californica.” In From Boys to Men: Gay Men Write about Growing Up, eds. Ted Gideonse and Robert Williams. (Carroll & Graf, September 2006).
“Marcel Dzama’s Notebook.” In The Course of Human History Personified. Ed. Amy Baumann. New York: David Zwirner Gallery, 2005.
“‘We Slipped into a Dream State’: Dreaming and Trauma in Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After.” JAC: International Journal of Rhetoric and Culture. Fall 2004 (24.3: 580 - 605).
“The Private Personality of the Public Classroom.” The Scholar and the Feminist. Summer 2003 (2.1).
“Testimony and the Subjects of AIDS Memoirs.” A/B: Auto/Biography Studies. Fall 1998 (13.2: 235-256) [reprinted in Extremities].
Works in Progress
The One You Get: A Neurobiography (represented by the literary agency Donadio & Olson).
“If the Writer Is an Organmism: Brain Memoirs and Neuroscience.” To be published by the Journal Literature and Medicine.