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The DisarticulateLanguage, Disability, and the Narratives of Modernity$
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James Berger

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708460

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708460.001.0001

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Alterity Is Relative

Alterity Is Relative

Impairment, Narrative, and Care in an Age of Neuroscience

(p.183) 5 Alterity Is Relative
The Disarticulate

James Berger

NYU Press

This chapter describes the shift in representations of figures with cognitive or linguistic impairments that comes with the enormous acceleration of knowledge in neuroscience. The imaginings of radical alterity are no longer relevant in the context neuroscience, which insists that knowledge of brain processes holds the key to understanding all aspects of human thought, feeling, behavior, and culture. The chapter suggests a “defense of narrative” against methodologies that bypass narrative's and language's intrinsic ambiguities and contingencies. Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, and Richard Powers's The Echo Maker draw heavily on neuroscientific knowledge and present clinical descriptions of the impairments at the centers of their stories. These “neuronovels” understand neuroscience in an expansivesense, one in which the complex, productive-receptive, and irreducible structure and function of the brain finds its most characteristic expression in human language use with all its indeterminacies.

Keywords:   cognitive impairments, linguistic impairments, neuroscience, radical alterity, defense of narrative, language, Mark Haddon, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Powers, brain processes

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