Sunday, September 29, 2013

Alluding to the Brain

This weeks reading was particularly interesting to me because it allowed for the perfect way of combining my two emphasis areas. Aside from that, it was also interesting to me because he covered some very unique and diverse topics within one chapter. The three areas that piqued my interest the most were the split-brain patients, the mental-illness in writers, and conspiracy theories. The last interested me mainly because I have never been one to give much credit to conspiracy theorists. In one article I found about conspiracy theories it said that people who were more likely to participate in one such conspiracy are much more likely to believe in a similar one. I thought this was kind of fun and fascinating (Douglas, and Sutton). What causes people to invent conspiracy theories? The one that helped combine my two areas of emphasis (English and Biology) was the mental-illness in writers. Gottschall pointed out several authors that have written books while experiencing symptoms of mental illness (including addictions). One article I read searched through Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish libraries to find books by people with mental illnesses. While most of the books that they studied were autobiographies, this caused me to wonder; does the mental illness cause them to become writers? Or are they writers at heart and just do so when they find a topic to write about (their mental illness)? It is something that I wondered while reading this article ((Anderson, and Larsen)

Anderson, Anders Johan W., and Inger Beate Larsen. "Hell on earth: Textual reflections on the experience of mental illness." Journal of Mental Health. 21.2 (2012): 174-181. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.
Douglas, Karen M., and Robbie M. Sutton. "Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire." British Journal of Social Psychology. 50.3 (2011): 544-552. Web. 29 Sep. 2013.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dreams Don't Come True...?

"Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives." (William Dement) "Trouble is the fat red thread that ties together the fantasies of pretend play, fiction, and dreams." (Jon Gottschall) While these two quotes seem to have relatively little in common, with some thinking they become closer than one could even "dream". Dreaming is something that each of us do each night whether we remember it or not. However, when we do remember our dreams, they are often rife with trouble (that so called "fat red thread"). In an article, it discusses how dreams are sites of creativity and agency as well as a means for inventing new forms (Kirtsoglou 321-335). While this article didn't directly discuss how dreams are insane, I was inclined to think about how most creative ideas are considered "insane" by those that can't quite grasp the beauty behind the idea. Another article I found completely wonderful was one discussing the similarities between animals dreams and humans dreams. It concentrated on some research done regarding neuroscience and behavioral biology. It goes into the belief that dreams "perform a crucial function in all animals." This article also goes in depth into the study mentioned in Gottschall's book about the cats with the centers removed from their brains to study their sleep cycles and dreams. I enjoyed very much reading the biological studies talked about within this article (Stevens 53).

Kirtsoglou, Elisabeth. "Dreaming the Self: Unified Approach towards Dreams, Subjectivity and the Radical Imagination." History & Anthropology. Sep 2010: 321-335. Web. 22 Sep. 2013.
Stevens, Anthony. "JUNGIAN PSYCHOLOGY, THE BODY, AND THE FUTURE." Journal of Analytical Psychology. Jul 1995: 353. Web. 22 Sep. 2013.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Suicidal Tendencies

One definition of "storytelling" that I found online states that contemporary storytelling includes cultural preservation, instillation of moral values, history, personal narrative, political commentary, and evolving cultural norms. This supports Gottschall's theory when he says "There is a yawning canyon between what is desirable in life and what is desirable in fiction." The moral values that are taught in stories change between the various cultures, but the results are always the same. What is desirable in life is very different than what is desirable in our stories. One study contradicted this theory by saying that stories are so much more than that. It said that readers have to be socially, psychologically, morally, emotionally, and cognitively involved in a story in order for it to affect them in any significant way. Not only that, but it says that across many different cultures, all stories will affect people in the same way.
Again, in Gottschall's section of the book called "A Mirror of Life?", he indicates that stories of wish fullfillment don't tempt us nearly as much as stories of people that have actually lived exciting lives. Another study I read stated the opposite. It examined the various myths from Norway, Iceland, and Finland that said as soon as the lives of the protagonist got difficult, they ended their lives in various methods of suicide (sometimes before the adventure or excitement even got started)! The conductors of this study also said that suicide provided the protagonist an escape from any excitement. This directly contradicts what Gottschall was saying in his book.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Dark Side

Humans have an interesting fascination with the "darker" things in life and storytelling. Our ears immediately tune into the sounds of people gossiping. We are completely enthralled with the scary parts in stories. Most of the dreams we may remember involve running from monsters, or murdering bad guys. Almost every story that we read/watch/listen/invent contain some sort of element that doesn't belong in a simple "happy" fairytale. A story isn't considered good if their isn't some sort of problem to overcome like aliens invading or a bad guy to make pay for his crimes. As readers, we look for books filled with excitement and adventure and, of course, a happily ever after sort of ending! Storytelling is something that has changed over time. For example, if you have ever read the original Grimm fairytales, you also remember how Cinderella's step sisters cut off their toes and their heels to try and get the glass slipper to fit. Or how one little girl didn't listen to the directions given to her and she couldn't take off her red dancing slippers. The only way she could stop dancing was to cut off her own feet. These stories were meant to either be told to little kids and teach them the importance of listening to the elders or to provide entertainment for adults to tell to each other (like how Little Red Riding Hood does a strip tease for the wolf in one version of the story). It is interesting to see how these "children's tales" have changed as society has progressed and really changed to be geared more to children with some scary elements removed and, like the Disney versions, a happily ever after with a prince. Now, however, there are more stories than ever before and adults are able to find their "dark" kicks from different sources than the old fairytales. We are drawn into stories in the mind set that they are a clear view into someone else's life with no negative side affects. Many of the darker elements of story draw adults in because it is what they are interested in or have questions about. Our minds elicit powerful images based on things we have seen or heard. The way we tell stories has changed through time and will continue to do so, but humans will never stop telling stories and they always have. As technology advances, stories change to incorporate things that have never been in stories before, but the basic story line has always been the same. Do you think stories have changed?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dying or Thriving?

Storytelling is something that (as I've already said) is difficult to define. I think that stories are anything that can make us lose sight of the real world. Because of this, I think it is extremely easy to be sucked into several different types of "stories". And by that, I mean stories that most people wouldn't consider stories. I believe anything from books to video games to social media websites can be considered stories. What story changes more frequently than the news feed on Facebook? Or the video game your nephew gets sucked into for up to 12 hours a day? In the book "Narrative Across Media: the Languages of Storytelling" it talks about the several definitions that have been given to storytelling. I found myself agreeing with parts of their definitions, but never with a whole definition. I think it is something very individual and depends on each persons perceptions. The stories can change, but they all accomplish the same things; making us lose sight of the world around us and being sucked into our Neverland's. Dreams are also stories that the brain can tell us. They can have nothing to do with our real life or they can be all of our hopes being dashed. Stories can be told orally or visually, by thinking or through the written word. Every book is a story no matter the genre. Each T.V. commercial, radio commercial, or billboard tells its own story. One billboard in the Salt Lake area gets your attention because it is a lime green background with the words "Your wife is so hot... Get your A.C. fixed". No matter what, your eyes will be caught by the bright colored background or the first phrase will grab your attention because it isn't something you see everyday. It tells its own short story and immediately your eyes are drawn to several possible alternatives to where this billboard could be going.
Storytelling is something that is definitely a thriving art. It will never die so long as humans are alive to continue the stories. The definition of storytelling could possible change, but it will never dye completely until the human race dies. Neverland is hidden inside each of us. It is a place we return to several hours every day and night. Each person has a different idea for what Neverland is like and where it is, but it is in each of our minds. It controls much of our "thoughtless" hours with simple daydreams and at night with complex imaginings. It is where we are sucked to during our ours of listening/reading/watching of stories. It is complex and lovely and scary. Neverland contains our worst nightmares as well as our best dreams. It is something that changes as we grow older and becomes (in ways) more complex. Neverland is somewhere I choose to go a lot whenever I have free time and can open a book or put a movie on to watch. I enjoy most of my time in Neverland and imagine that most other people enjoy their time there as well.