Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Neuroscientific Turn

I am doubly happy to hear that advance copies of The Neuroscientific Turn: Transdisciplinarity in the Age of the Brain have arrived.  I'm always happy when a colleague's book gets published, and this book is co-edited by Melissa Littlefield, who is an Associate Professor here at UIUC with appointments in English and in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health.  But also, this is a book I've had my eye on for some time just out of personal interest, and I'm eager to get my hands on a copy!

Here is the book description, pasted in from the University of Michigan Press website:

"The Neuroscientific Turn brings together 19 scholars from a variety of fields to reflect on the promises of and challenges facing emergent "neurodisciplines" such as neuroethics, neuroeconomics, and neurohistory. In the aftermath of the Decade of the Brain, neuroscience has become one of the hottest topics of study—not only for scientists but also, increasingly, for scholars from the humanities and social sciences. While the popular press has simultaneously lauded and loathed the coming "neurorevolution," the academy has yet to voice any collective speculations about whether there is any coherence to this neuroscientific turn; what this turn will and should produce; and what implications it has for inter- or transdisciplinary inquiry.

Melissa M. Littlefield and Jenell M. Johnson provide an initial framework for this most recent of "turns" by bringing together 14 original essays by scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and neurosciences. The resulting collection will appeal to neuroscientists curious about their colleagues' interest in their work; scholars and students both in established neurodisciplines and in disciplines such as sociology or English wondering about how to apply neuroscience findings to their home disciplines; and to science, technology, and society scholars and students interested in the roles of interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity in the construction of knowledge."

I should also say that I'm looking forward to reading essays in this volume by Justine Murison, who contributed a piece on a "neuroscientific turn" in the US in the 1840s, and by Bruce Michelson, whose essay on "the mind-sciences in a literature classroom" sounds immediately useful to me.

Congrats to all!     

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