Abstract

This essay attempts to account for the role of figurative language in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writings on the brain. By focusing on a host of novels, poems, plays, and medical texts, I argue that figurative language allowed early neurologists to give the appearance that they had solved a scientific and philosophical problem: how does mere matter think? By using figures like personification, and by thereby granting human characteristics like will and emotion to the active but otherwise dumb matter that constituted the human brain, early neurologists made it possible to conceive--at least in their own writing--how strictly unthinking nerves and flesh could produce the lively effects of the conscious, reasoning mind.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 1073-1108
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-07
Open Access
No
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