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Title:Ideas in 19th-century cerebros: Neurology and the fictional mind, Spain 1870-1900
Author(s):Garcia Plazaola, Iker
Director of Research:Tolliver, Joyce
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Tolliver, Joyce
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Micale, Mark; Littlefield, Melissa; Irigoyen-Garcia, Javier
Department / Program:Spanish and Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Neurology, Fictional Mind, Narrative Fiction, Spain, Realism, 19th Century
Abstract:This dissertation analyses uses of cerebro (brain) in Spanish narrative fiction of the period 1870-1900, with a focus on the realist novels La Regenta (“The Judge’s Wife”) (1885) by Leopoldo Alas “Clarín” (1852-1901) and Fortunata y Jacinta (“Fortunata and Jacinta”) (1887) by Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920). More than a linguistic reflection of neurological advances placing the brain and the nervous system at the center of scientific and philosophical debates, cerebro recurrently used to denote a site of psychological rather than physiological activity was a reflection of, and simultaneously a contribution to, a paradigm shift in the understanding of the mind or selfhood, through which a centuries-old tradition of spiritualism and dualism was replaced with a materialist conception of the mind as ultimately identifiable with the brain. In reconstructing this materialist shift taking as my textual basis uses of cerebro in fiction, as well as a variety of neurological, psychological, and philosophical sources, I argue for a connection between neurology and literature going beyond a passive reflection of the former in the latter. At the same time that unprecedented neurological progress during the 19th century resulted in the definitive case for the materially embodied nature of the mind in the brain, the development of the realist novel, and particularly of the psychological realist novel, brought about an unprecedented growth in extension and autonomy of the minds of fictional characters. This growth was accompanied by a correlative expansion of the discursive resources used to linguistically represent those minds, a significant aspect of which is words for denoting the mind in narrative discourse in Spanish. Therefore, advances in both science and literature favored the normalization of uses of cerebro with a psychological denotation in fiction, a discursive praxis that contributed to the visibility of the notion that the mind is material, a naturalistic view that in turn contributed to the secularizing project of Spain’s liberal nation-state.
Issue Date:2021-04-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Iker Garcia Plazaola
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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