Neuroscience of Shakespeare


14 Responses to “Neuroscience of Shakespeare”

  1. Duane says:

    I knew this sounded familiar:

    The “Shakespeare Thinking” book is indeed 5 years old. I’m still trying to figure out the context of this article. Is it a new book that he has coming out, or that’s already out, and this is an excerpt? Or is the article strictly about ongoing research that he’s working on?

  2. technogeek says:

    In English, any noun can be verbed, and you can noun any verb.

    Quoting James D. Nicoll (who seems to have originated the concept):

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

  3. TheWalbert says:

    @jfrancis: Please, for the children’s sake if not your own, never again equate the works of Shakespeare with a marketing slogan. Thanks.

    Also, for the record, that example you gave is not a function shift. Love, The Walbert.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t see why not. He’s pointing to an example. Copywriting can and should be considered as creative writing.

  4. drlandsnark says:

    Gyromagician, I never understand this idea people have that by studying something we’re somehow trying to reduce it. By studying things, we can actually enrich our experience of them…how is it somehow bad to try to create a deeper understanding of how his words touch us so deeply?

    If a deeper understanding somehow destroys the experience, then all Shakespeare scholarship should be banned, not just this. If, on the other hand, a deeper understanding of the social, historical, literary, etc. context of the man and his writing can enhance the experience of his work, then so will a deeper understanding of the neuroscientific and, dare I say, the biological and chemical context.

    Let us all celebrate in our own way.

    • GyroMagician says:

      I’m really not trying to say that. I’m trying to say that the tools can’t do the job. They don’t have that kind of sensitivity. Reading Shakespeare, or even a postcard from a friend, produces all kinds of complex thoughts and feelings. Our machines and techniques are getting better – we’re a little beyond ‘feels GOOD/BAD’ – but not much. I seriously doubt whether it is possible to detect the difference between a subject reading a shopping list or reading Twelfth Night. And I find it frustrating, because these kinds of claims give good neuroscience tools a bad name.

      BTW, like the xkcd ref – that just about sums up why I enjoy working in science.

  5. fraac says:

    He was very Whedony.

  6. rorschachian says:

    Obligatory Calvin and Hobbes

  7. peterbruells says:

    Verbing series’s language

    That said, this Marlowe guy was one he’ll of a writer.

  8. GyroMagician says:

    What is it with neuroscientists? Why do they feel this incessant need to ‘explain’ Shakespeare with a few coloured blobs and wiggly lines? Can EEG really tell us anything about a literary device used by a particular author? Let me guess – we all have a Shakespeare-centre that only lights up when we hear lines written by the man himself? Is neuroscience running out of challenges? Have we solved it? Pah!

    (bit ranty – sorry – maybe the morning coffee was a bit strong)

  9. noah django says:

    It’s funny, I read this post right after I was bugging off Posdnuos’ final verse in The Bizness when it came up on my itunes:

    Kids think stepping
    to the Soul, you’re labeled fools
    who claim to drop jewels
    but for now you do the catching
    I don’t worry on what crew you run,
    or what section
    of earth you reside,
    you’re not even a man
    So I don’t deem it mandatory
    taking your pride
    But I will, cause my man said Soul for the life

    [the meter shifts a lot, I've tried to put the line breaks to make the internal rhymes more obvious]

    Here, “run” is a functional shift, I think. It is an abbreviated form of “run with;” meaning the crew you belong to, the company one keeps. In any event, rap is full of this type of thing, and really mind-bending wordplay and meter in general. At least, the good stuff is. But I suppose researching the Bard is a surer way to secure research grants, fortunately or unfortunately.

  10. jfrancis says:

    Sort of like Apple’s, Think Different.

    People want it to read, Think Differently.

    But it really means Think: ‘Different’

  11. rosycoeur says:

    Oh, one of my word-a-day alerts just popped the word “osmose” into my mailbox. I thought for a moment this was a great example of verbing “osmosis” and then got a thrill to see that apparently Shakespeare used the word.

    osmose \oz-MOHS\, verb:

    1. To gradually or unconsciously assimilate some principle or object.
    2. To undergo osmosis.

    Not a man osmose but he hath the wit to lose his hair.
    – William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

    EXCEPT that actual text is:
    Not a man *of those* but he hath the wit to lose his hair.


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