foreword ) sometimes wonder why the best literature so often has an element of unlikelihood: why one of the great novels of the twentieth century is an 800-page description of an ad salesman and a student walking around one day in Dublin; or why one of the defining American classics is about living in a shack on a lake for a couple of years; or why one of the finest English lyric poems is a depiction of an antique urn in a museum. Why is the most memorable stuff so often the miraculous transformation of a seemingly limited subject? A recent article by Burkhard Bilger in the New Yorker describes the work of neuroscientist David Eagleman. Eagleman is interested in the way the human brain assesses and handles time, from the briefest to the longest periods. His depiction of our temporal mechanisms turns out to be just one example of the currently evolving portrait of the human brain as a hodgepodge of overlapping and layered systems, a "Victorian attic" of devices that handle slightly different but related processes. A person with a neural illness or damage may be extremely limited in some ways while becoming acutely capable in
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Jul 22, 2011
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