[ilds] real emotions and unreal figures

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 18 17:04:24 PDT 2009


Back from a lecture on Tutankhamun's medicine cabinet and all the  
speculations Egyptologists like to indulge in.  I love it for that;  
it's another kind of imaginative thinking.  Never let anyone fool you  
that archaeology is a science — it ain't.  Along this line, I have  
absolutely never thought of Shakespeare's characters as "real" and  
seriously doubt, if you questioned your students closely, any of them  
really think they are.  Better question, what did Shakespeare think?   
I think Prospero's stuff-of-dream speech (Tempest, IV, 1, 156ff) gives  
you the probably answer.  Who thinks Sherlock is real?  You gotta be  
kidding me.  And the Soaps — they're pure late afternoon escapism,  
mainly for housewives, I bet, bored with their lot.  No, the world  
would be a far worse place without Hamlet and Holmes.  They give hope  
and deliverance from the real world.  Remember, God is a humorist.


On Oct 18, 2009, at 3:16 PM, Godshalk, William (godshawl) wrote:

> Bruce,
> 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?
> Bill
> 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
> Bill,
> 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.
> Bruce
> 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.
> Bill

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