Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Joseph Gold THE STORY SPECIES quotes

Note: Minor editorial changes have been made to the original text to make the quotes here more readable. If a significant amount has been changed it will be noted as paraphrased.

Preface xxiii
We are rapidly reaching a time in human history when reading Literature as an antidote to depersonalization could become a subversive activity.
xxiv If we do not read, we do the work for them.
xxvi Human beings are supposed to use Literature to assist them to create a personal identity and to help them manage this identity's encounter with the world. Literature...a systematic feedback loop, continuously self-generating and cumulatively growing.

p. 4 What is story? What role does Literature play in human evolution and in individual lives? What role do the transferred words play in the biological and social life of readers? How is the product of reading stored in the body of the reader? Why is it that if a painting is burned it is gone forever, but a poem... can be memorized intact, unaltered and transmittable as long as a human brain retains it? What has taken place in the event that you take a novel off a shelf, read it, and return it? What "being" does the book (or rather its words) have, there on the shelf while not being read? Where does the power of a book lie? How is the process of transference achieved when it is being read? Why is some particular arrangement of words more effective to a particular reader than other arrangements?

 p. 5 Oddly enough, linguists, neurolinguists and psycholinguists have virtually ignored Literature in their researches into language. ...The answers to the sample questions I have posed above will only be found in a multi-disciplinary effort.

p. 7 We need to recognize and accept that language is a biological code that achieves molecular change in brain tissue; that organization of this code into stories is created by selection, transfer and association of data through immensely complex brain processes; that this happens both internally in one brain and in transfers from one brain to another; and that we need to consciously work for the expansion of this code in the service of our own selves. Works of Literature are coded models of experiential patterns in the brains of writers. They are specialized forms of neural potentials and never achieve physical mass, weight, dimension, colour or texture as do other works of art. Such words, of course, are used to describe literary works, but these words can mislead. A book is not the words, the marks on the pages, and the marks on the pages are not "things" either, but symbols of sounds. The sounds behind the words are, in turn, a code for sensory registers of data, data being the brain's responses to neural signals of incoming "out there" information. It is easy to be deceived by the "thingness" of a book, but "the map is not the territory." We will have to realize that qualities attributed to Literature, but borrowed from objects, are metaphors describing the mind of the reader decoding the text.

p. 8-9 ...the human organism is a collection of information made flesh, organized and energized into cellular activity, and continually modified by more and more information. The individual arrangement of this information is called identity. Identity is never complete because it is a process of response to, and accommodation of, new information which cannot stop until sensory activity itself stops at death. We must learn to remind ourselves continually that language is at its root metaphoric. ...Terms like "identity" and "information" are themselves metaphors for our awareness of internal change, our sense of being someone and knowing something. When we learn or know something new we have a mental and body sense of owning, internalizing that "something." We call this neural registration "information."

p. 13 Referencing Gregory Bateson: A story is a little knot or complex of that species of connectedness which we call relevance.

p. 18 The collection of kits we acquire through life experience, including the experience of our reading, becomes the "I" we carry around with us and into which we try to fit all new experience. It is this model version of ourselves made up of stored, coded experiences that seems to take on a powerful life of its own, our life story. This is our identity, and on the basis of this identity all our thought and behaviour take place. All its parts must be connected, and this drive to connect the parts forces us to work continuously to organize and reorganize the parts into a whole, a whole that is ever changing. In fact, the principal activity of human minds, moment to moment, is the fine tuning, the adjusting of this narrative.

p. 19 Referencing Terrence Deacon: At the level of what an individual knows, a language is very much like one's own personal symbiotic organism. ...this narrative "organism" is a second self that we create, layered over the first. ...in the freedom to create this second self, this "I," lies the key to our well-being. It is this freedom that is the source of all effective therapy. Threats to our identity are the source of what we call noxious stress, experiences we live through that are difficult to incorporate into our "I."

p. 40 It is well-known in clinical therapy that if patients can be persuaded to write about their negative emotions, thoughts and experiences, they feel better and become healthier. ...Why is this? ...the writing step increases the sense of having externalized, put aside, filed away the negative emotional material carried in the body. Expression in writing is purgative. ...writing creates distance between first-hand experience and memory. The negative experience and its consequences are not forgotten, it is distanced and "objectified." It can now be viewed by neocortical processing, managed and integrated as part of a "filed" narrative. ...Putting the language of thought and feeling "out there" also involves a generalized sense of dissociation. ...useful for dysfunctional mental states...

p. 61-62 Reading Literature constitutes a very efficient behaviour for acquiring experience. ...reading story as experience is to realize experience imaginatively, in a pre-formed, pre-managed package. Literature is peculiarly suited for integration into the "I" formation by virtue of its story format...In the encounter between the self and the world, the "I" is created out of necessity, out of the need to adapt, to be effective. Success for human identity is really success at adaptation. ...reading story is the most powerful method for assisting change.

p. 63 Referencing Oliver Sacks: We have, each of us, a life-story, an inner narrative whose continuity, whose sense, is our lives. It might be said that each of us constructs and lives a "narrative," and that this narrative is us, our identities. If we wish to know about a man, we ask "what is his story--his real, inmost story?"--for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us--through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each of us unique.

p. 64 The "I" is our living, breathing, ever changing autobiography, the story of our lives. What we need to learn is that we can actively participate in the construction of this narrative of who we are. In composing this story each of us is inescapably an author and each creates the one living "book" that is our guide to everything. This guide gets "written" by taking in information assimilated by all our senses and converting it into a complex language code by our brains. This code is sequenced into stories of incidents, experiences, and responses involving both emotion and rational thought. Feeling and thought are in turn woven into a larger running narrative that creates identity, a composite account of the thoughts and feelings that become a filter through which we see all new experience. We come to rely on the stability of this filter. We count on the fact that we will wake up each morning with this narrative intact.

p. 70 ...a well-integrated identity must take account of and accommodate its emotional experience. Literature, born from the process of integrating thought and emotion, can be important to readers who can use it to assist their own such integration.

p. 71 The construction of an adaptive, functional identity ought to be much more prominent in psychotherapy than it is. The therapist would then function as an editor to the writing of the patient's story.

p. 81 Emotion is intimately involved in storing memories. Emotion makes events important and ensures that what is remembered best is stored along with its emotional associations. Stimuli, perhaps from reading, may evoke emotions related to past events. ...The stories that were important to us have (lost text...will have to reinput aghhh!)