restricted access Touching Brains

In this essay, I focus on the portrayal of physical brains in contemporary fiction, with a particular focus on three novels: Siri Hustvedt’s The Sorrows of an American, Ian McEwan’s Saturday, and John Wray’s Lowboy. These novels represent a common literary phenomenon: the dramatization of a fantasy whereby touching brains may reveal the immaterial self. Building on William A. Cohen’s concept of material interiority, I argue that the literary portrayal of this fantasy challenges traditional understandings of interiority because they represent mental experience as a product of dynamic relationships among brain, body, social relations, and environment.