“Considering the perspectives of others has important benefits for individuals and for society. There is one easy way to do it.”
Susan Gelman, the Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, discusses the implicit meanings of the pronouns I, you, and we: “we have discovered that these ‘little words’ can carry a big punch: They convey a host of implicit messages that enable people to move beyond their own perspective to imagine how someone else would think or feel.”
She adds that shifts in pronoun usage are evident in children as well as adults. “Pronoun shifts are used to make meaning out of difficult experiences, to create resonance with others, and to convey kindness, compassion, and the right way to behave.”
Understanding pronoun usage can also help readers decode meaning in fiction.
Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literature & Psychology, Reading
I still can’t keep straight terms like Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z, despite my daughter’s best efforts to school me. I have the same problem with the proliferation of emerging subgenres of fiction described with some label ending in -punk. I am, however, comfortable with cyberpunk, probably because, as Chris M. Arnone explains here, “cyberpunk spun out of the drug culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s [and] gained traction and meaning in the 1980s.”
Here’s how Arnone defines cyberpunk:
There are a lot of definitions, but the core one is a narrative focused on high technology and low life. What does that mean? The tech is bleeding-edge, often post-humanist in its incorporation with humanity. This means cybernetic enhancements, nanotechnology, and cyberspace as an actual place. Low life? That’s the criminal underbelly. Often in the best cyberpunk novels, the world is ruled by massive corporations, leaving the regular people to fight over the scraps.
It warmed my heart to find on Arnone’s list several cyberpunk novels that I read and loved: Neuromancer by William Gibson, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and Oryx and Crake (first in the MaddAddam Trilogy) by Margaret Atwood.
Categories: Book Recommendations, Literary Criticism, Literary History
Adrian Johns’s book The Science of Reading: Information, Media, and Mind in Modern America was published earlier this month (April 2023) by The University of Chicago Press. In this article Johns discusses the movement to study reading as a science that arose in about 1870 and that produced The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading by Edmund Burke Huey “the first major book in this new science to be published in America,” in 1908.
Johns’s own book, he writes, continues Huey’s work by documenting the “transition of the science of reading to the new domain of digital information.”
Categories: Literary History, Reading
Sophie Vershbow, a social media strategist and freelance journalist in New York City, writes, “when I was assigned to investigate the methodology behind Barack Obama’s annual lists of book recommendations, I set out to expose a secret apparatus of industry shenanigans. What I found was much more shocking.”
Categories: Book Recommendations, Reading
“The stories we tell ourselves affect our decision-making in profound ways, says psychotherapist turned bestselling author Salley Vickers. Here, she recommends five novels that delve into the psychology of the self—and of society.”
If you’ve hung out at Notes in the Margin before, you know that psychological novels are at the top of my list of favorite books to read. Sally Vickers’s list particularly appealed to be because it includes works written across a wide time period.
Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary History, Literature & Psychology
“A neurodivergent psychotherapist (and author) offers up guidance on creating your ND characters”
The term neurodiversity was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer, who recognized that people whose brains processed, learned, and behaved in ways different than what was considered ‘typical’ were part of a neurological minority on par with other groups in a socio-cultural context. The term signified a paradigm shift, away from a pathological model of illness to a balance between a healthy social model and a strong medical model, beneficial to society at large.
Writer Harper Kincaid uses her own experiences to help explain neurodiversity.
Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Reading, Writing
“The author-read audiobook is an anomalous and small slice of all audiobook productions, but an intriguing one,” writes Samantha Pergadia. She uses this observation as the hook on which to hang a discussion of the various meanings of voice in a literary context. And that discussion, in turn, leads to questions of identity such as stylistic voice vs. spoken voice, inner voice vs. persona, ethnic or racial representation, and written vs. recited (or spoken) work.
The audiobook memoir promises a perfect confluence of person, author persona, voice, and aesthetic form. But are we ready to register all of the implications? The contemporary author-recorded audiobook is a unique aesthetic form, changing how authors write, how we read, and how we imagine literary celebrity in the era of the voice.
Categories: Audiobooks, Life Stories in Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary History, Reading, Writing
“Since the mid-nineteenth century, many labor regulations in the US have been crafted with the express purpose of strengthening the male-breadwinner family.”
Here’s a summary of an article by Arianne Renan Barzilay originally published in the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law in 2012:
Barzilay begins her story in the 1840s, a time when most men and women lived and worked on farms so the question of who “goes to work” and who stays home was not yet broadly relevant. However, even then, she writes, American women were becoming increasingly critical of the idea that marriage should be a hierarchical relationship with the husband having control over his wife and children.
Categories: Life Stories in Literature, Literature & Culture
“Censorship is surging thanks to an organised rightwing minority targeting books on LGBTQ and Black characters and issues”
It’s always interesting and informative to take a look at how other countries and cultures perceive us:
The primary cost is to children denied appropriately selected books that could be life-affirming and life-changing – even, perhaps, life-saving. The chilling effect of challenges makes librarians and teachers second-guess their choices and cut book purchases. . . . But parents, librarians and communities are waking up to the threat, and are organising and educating to counter it. Books are the building blocks of civilisation. They must be defended.
Categories: Censorship, Libraries, Literature & Culture
© 2023 by Mary Daniels Brown