Friday, 11 April 2008

"neurospeculation, not neuroscience"

Raymond Tallis makes short work of 'neuro-criticism' in this TLS article [ ]. He is particularly critical of A.S. Byatt's reading of Donne's poetry as a brain event, which she thinks is explicable using neuroscience. I'm convinced by his arguments; I think we need to be very careful when approaching literature from an inter-disciplinary perspective, and Byatt does seem to place too much trust in the science. As Tallis points out, her reading is in this instance, overly reductionist. It seems that the neuroscience itself is not advanced enough to explain our experience of art, and for my part, I hope that it will never be able to.

I think such mistakes are bound to be made, and it is important that critics play with different disciplines in order to create something new. Byatt has gone too far, but I think she deserves praise for trying. 'Interdisciplinarity' should not be abandoned simply because it doesn't always work, although I wonder whether the sciences are better placed to help us understand the structure and logic of language rather than our personal experience of art.

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