[ilds] real emotions and unreal figures

Godshalk, William (godshawl) godshawl at ucmail.uc.edu
Sun Oct 18 15:16:06 PDT 2009


You and Norm may not be that far asunder. Let me read the book and let you know. 

About the reality of fictional characters, I can report that my students always (maybe not always, but often) talk about Shakespeare's characters as if they are real -- same as the ladies in the grocery talk about the soaps as if they are real. 

Everyone thinks Sherlock Holmes is a real dective -- don't they?

Would the world be a better place if Hamlet and Holmes had never been written?


W. L. Godshalk *
Department of English    *           *
University of Cincinnati*   * Stellar Disorder  *
OH 45221-0069 *  *
From: ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca [ilds-bounces at lists.uvic.ca] On Behalf Of Bruce Redwine [bredwine1968 at earthlink.net]
Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2009 4:44 PM
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Cc: Bruce Redwine
Subject: Re: [ilds] real emotions and unreal figures


Deep question.  I guess everything people perceive (very broadly), in a scientific sense, can be reduced to neurons in the brain.  Off hand, however, testing my own feelings, I don't think of literature as "unreal people whom we think of as real."  I know I'm going into another dimension, the author's Imagination, whatever that is and whatever that is in tuned to, and great authors make this transition more enjoyable than others.  I happened yesterday to take up Emily Brontë's poetry once again, and her receptivity to "the Invisible" struck me as very similar to Durrell's.  Does anyone think of Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw as "real?"  Or Justine and Darley?  I doubt it.  They're a part of Emily's and Durrell's worlds, which we readers want to inhabit, however momentarily.  I'm arguing for something mystical, which is the best way I can express it right now, and against something in Holland's line of inquiry, if I understand it correctly.


On Oct 18, 2009, at 12:56 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:

          " All my life, I've been fascinated by the way people relate to literature and the arts. As a result, I have been teaching and writing about psychoanalytic psychology. cognitive science, and what they tell us about the responses of readers to literary texts, movies, and occasionally the other arts.

          " Recently, I've gotten intensely interested in what neuropsychology has to say about the literary process. My most recent book, Literature and the Brain tells how our brains function in special ways when we are transported by a story, a poem, a play, or a movie. We no longer sense our bodies or our environment. We do not disbelieve the most imporbable things, and we feel real emotions towards people and situations that we know are quite unreal. Literature and the Brain explains that our brains behave in this special way because we know that we cannot act to change the work of art. The book goes on to address some basic questions about literature. What makes us sense some language as literary? What does it mean when we say a literary work is good or great or awful? What brain states account for literary creativity? Why have all cultures in all times, so far as we know, had some form of language art?"

So writes Norman Holland about his newest book, Literature and the Brain. I have not read the book, but I hope it gives us a way (another way) of dealing with the problem of unreal people whom we think of as real. I think of women checking out at a grocery store and talking about the soaps.


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