The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1978 Friday, 10 October 2003
From: Al Magary <
Date: Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 23:37:49 -0700
Subject: "And this is your brain on Shakespeare..."
A note from the frontiers of science:
A neuroscientist and a Shakespeare scholar who want to use color brain
scans to show the brain experiencing despair, rage, love, joy, etc. have
borrowed Shakespeare to illustrate the same range of emotions. The
book, _The Bard on The Brain: Understanding the Mind Through the Art of
Shakespeare and the Science of Brain Imaging_, by Paul Matthews and
Jeffrey McQuain (Dana Press), was written up in yesterday's USA Today:
"[The] pairing offers readers a richer understanding of what it means to
be fully alive, says Gail Kern Paster, director of the Folger
Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Shakespeare is the perfect
choice for such a book because he explored diseases like epilepsy and
Alzheimer's as well as the normal development of the human mind - like
the formation of a first memory, she says."
King Lear is used to explain Alzheimer's disease, says the article. "At
the opening of this play, the once-mighty King Lear divides his kingdom
in a way that seems to defy logic, a move that might be seen as the
subtle onset of Alzheimer's, a disease that afflicts 4.5 million
Americans today. As the play unfolds, Lear's once effective
decision-making starts to deteriorate, and he experiences flares of
strong emotion, key signs of Alzheimer's. Shakespeare wrote about the
aging King Lear long before scientists had identified the destruction of
brain tissue that causes symptoms of the disease. Yet Lear often looks
like a classic Alzheimer's patient - a man found lost and wandering by
his daughter's troops."
Richard III illustrates sociopathic disorder, Hamlet depression, and
Julius Caesar epilepsy.
--Conveyed by Al Magary
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