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Being BrainsMaking the Cerebral Subject$
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Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823276073

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823276073.001.0001

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Brains on Screen and Paper

Brains on Screen and Paper

(p.189) Four Brains on Screen and Paper
Being Brains

Fernando Vidal

Francisco Ortega

Fordham University Press

The chapter addresses forms of the neuro in popular culture. Film and literature have in many ways rehearsed the connection between personal identity, having a body and being a brain, and have been major sites for elaborating and questioning the human as cerebral subject. Numerous works can be identified as “brain movies” and “brain novels:” most Frankenstein films since the 1940s; B-series productions from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, in which brains themselves are protagonists; science-fiction novels of the same period, which stage and exploit brain transplants or brains in vats. While we shall give room to this particular literary and filmic subgenres, our focus will be on later novels and films. We shall privilege works that explore existential, interpersonal, psychological, ethical and scientific aspects of the relations between having a brain and being a person less through the basic structure of their plots or the direct display of physical brains than through stylistic and formal features. In both areas we demonstrate that even the productions that start out treating humans as cerebral subjects end up contesting brain reductionism, and that such constitutive ambivalence is emblematic of the status of the cerebral subject in the modern and contemporary world.

Keywords:   brain transplant, brain-in-a-vat, Frankenstein, memory, neuronovel, personal identity, solipsism

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