Wednesday, November 29, 2006

hodge podge

My inability to lay down new AMPA receptors and initiate long term potentiation in my hippocampus is rapidly diminishing; prefrontal cortex refuses to hold any working memory (or inhibit distraction), and I seem to suffering from a minor bout of anterograde amnesia.

Studying for the last Brain and Thought exam is sapping my will to live.

While cramming today, Jamie and I had a brief discussion about amnesia; more specifically, whether we would rather have retrograde amnesia (the loss of memories of all events before the brain damage) or anterograde amnesia (the inability to form new memories, e.g. Memento). I came to the following conclusion: I'd prefer to suffer from retrograde amnesia now, and forge a new identity, but I would opt for the anterograde form of the illness once I'm very old.

While this naturally invites obvious questions about the nature of identity, it's important to remember that, in both cases of amnesia, nondeclarative memory--the unconscious procedures that guide existence--is retained, as is prefrontal cortical function, which guides our affective behavior.

I've been meaning to post about this piece (per usual, thanks Matt), which discusses similarities between Ian McEwan's Atonement and a 1977 memoir published by Lucilla Andrews, a WWII nurse and romance author. I didn't love Atonement; the tightly-wound eroticism of the beginning reminded me of Austen (as I've said, porn for nerdy pre-teen girls), but I completely lost interest in the latter half. Still, dude can write.

The Times presents a nice little pictogram of the similarities between passages from each novel (McEwan has admitted to borrowing information from Andrews' memoir, for "research" purposes); the resemblances seem to be mainly technical details, which McEwan plucked from Andrews' text in order to ensure the historical accuracy of his descriptions of nursing and illness.

The current fascination with plagiarism (sup, Kaavya) and authenticity in literature (James Frye et al) ought to spawn a good deal of scholarship over the determinants of originality, accuracy, and intellectual property. Such characteristics are both genre-specific and inherently ambiguous: reiterating concepts/facts in theory or research is different from replicating them in poetry and fiction; copying language and stylistic devices is more suspect in the latter than it is in the former. In McEwan's case, for example, one's immediate reaction is to disavow such theft as superficial: we don't admire "high" literature for its accuracy to history or its factual content, we admire it for its prose and ideas.

While, like everyone else, I'm not very impressed by this latest literary scandal, I'm irritated by reactions like Lev Grossman's (who wrote an irksome piece about the next great American novelist this summer) in Time; focusing on a comparison between McEwan's "greatness" and the pettiness of the faux pas is an injustice to the question of literary ethics, and does nothing to address the nuances of intention and authorship.


The Chaunce said...

Well sir, I concur!

Lindsay said...

james *frey*.