Literature, Medicine, and Culture Colloquium

On Friday, October 3, the Literature, Medicine, and Culture Colloquium (in conjunction with the IAH) is hosting three events featuring a visiting speaker, Melissa Littlefield. 

Melissa Littlefield is Associate Professor in the Departments of English and Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her PhD in English and Women’s Studies from Penn State University in 2005. Since then, she has published The Lying Brain: Lie Detection in Science and Science Fiction (Michigan, 2011), co-edited The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain (Michigan, 2012), and has published articles in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Social Studies of Science, American Literary History, and Science, Technology & Human Values. She also co-edits the journal Configurations, the journal of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA). 

The events are as follows: 

10:00 a.m. in Gaskin Library – Melissa will speak to graduate students about “Getting Published in Science Studies.” (Of course, faculty are welcome to attend as well.) 

1:00 p.m. in the Incubator Room, Hyde Hall – Melissa will participate in a roundtable discussion with faculty in English, Medicine, Social Medicine, and allied fields on “Doing Interdisciplinary Research.” Lunch will be provided for the first 20 participants. Please RSVP to 

3:00 p.m. in the University Room, Hyde Hall – Melissa will deliver a talk on “Brainwriting? The Neuroscientific Turn in Handwriting Analysis.” 

Abstract: Graphology, or the study of handwriting for clues about character, has been a popular American pastime for nearly two centuries. During this time, various graphologists have relied on the phrase “handwriting is brainwriting” as a means of legitimating their practice. The assumption here is that if graphology seeks access to the self, it is able to do so because of connections between the hand and the brain. In this presentation, I unpack the phrase “handwriting is brainwriting” by looking for convergences between graphology and the neurosciences. I ask: why neuroscience and graphology might ostensibly share the brain as a common locus of self? And how do both diagnostic technologies potentially construct the self as stable and knowable via a transparent human body? Drawing on historical media, non-fiction source material, and scientific sources, I argue that graphology and the neurosciences share several ideological assumptions that allow a phrase such as “handwriting is brainwriting” to proliferate.

Film Discussion: Lauren Greenfield’s “Thin”

At the next PPRG meeting Molly Gardner will lead a discussion of Lauren Greenfield’s 2006 documentary “Thin.” The film is available streaming via Amazon Prime. We will meet on Wednesday, September 17 from 7:30pm-9:00pm in room 213 of Caldwell Hall. Refreshments will be provided. RSVP to Dan if you plan to attend or have any questions about the meeting.

Note: we are meeting 30 minutes later than usual so that the PPRG meeting does not conflict with the PPE talk by David Lefkowitz that meets in room 105 of Caldwell Hall from 6:00pm-7:30pm.

Discussion: Jennifer Radden and Somogy Varga, “The Epistemological Value of Depression Memoirs: A Meta-Analysis”

Following up on themes from our last discussion, we will discuss Jennifer Radden and Somogy Varga’s “The Epistemological Value of Depression Memoirs: A Meta-Analysis” (Chapter 9 of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry) at the next PPRG meeting, which will be Wednesday, September 3 in room 213 of Caldwell Hall. There will be snacks. Please RSVP to Dan if you plan to attend or would like a copy of the reading.

Presentation: Owen Flanagan, “Identity and Addiction: What Alcoholic Memoirs Teach”

We are very pleased that Owen Flanagan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Neurobiology, will kick off this year’s meetings with a discussion of his paper “Identity and Addiction: What Alcoholic Memoirs Teach” (Chapter 51 of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry). Contact Dan if you need access to the paper. Additional background for the discussion is Flanagan’s paper on the role of shame in recovery, which can be accessed here:

The meeting will be Monday, August 18 from 7:00pm-8:30pm in room 213 of Caldwell Hall. There will be food from Med Deli. Please send an RSVP to Dan if you plan to attend.