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2012 Highlights

Sebastian Groes

1 May 2012

Sebastian Groes

Sebastian Groes is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Roehampton, London, UK. He’s the author of The Making of London (Palgrave, 2011) and has edited collections on authors including Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Julian Barnes. He is currently working on British Fiction in the Sixties and preparing a study into the relationship between literature and surveillance.

Abstract: 'What I want to know doesn't appear in the A-Z': neuroscientific and literary approaches to psychogeography in the work of Will Self


Recently we have seen a “neurorevolution”, which claims that insights into the functioning of the human brain will lead not only to novel technology, but to a radical transformation of our sense of what it is to be human. This neurobiological turn has influenced anti-scientific disciplines, such as art history and English studies, whilst also generating scepticism and hostility from certain corners of traditional arts and humanities subjects. We would like to address this by focusing on the ways in which neuroscience and literature map and help us understand cities, and London in particular. Our case study is one of the most provocative contemporary authors, Will Self, whose work has given us textual Londons inflected by an idiosyncratic, surreal imagination and linguistic pyrotechnics. Spiers will talk about results from a recent experiment with Self, who underwent various tests in Soho and an MRI scan as part of research following up on how London’s black cab drivers use their brain to navigate London’s labyrinth of streets. Groes will discuss Self’s London psychogeographies from a literary and historical angle. Whilst discussing findings from their own disciplinary perspectives, Groes and Spiers will also aim to find common ground, amid the seductive snares of neurorealism and neuroscientism.