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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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New Essay

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Postgraduate Diary: My Second Hand PhD

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I sometimes wonder whether the choice of primary texts I explore in my thesis is going to be governed less by intellectual criteria than by which second hand books happen to be shelved in our local Oxfam in town. I tend to have a quick browse about once a week, and several times now I have seen a work I had never heard of or been told about which nevertheless contains along its spine some of the keywords - consciousness, mind, brain, dualism, evolution - that now trigger my intellectual synapses (another of my new favourite words), and lead me to dig my hand into my pocket and to buy on a whim new reading material for the coming week. Reading Richard Dawkins' 3rd edition of The Selfish Gene recently, I can't help but imagine that this is a strange case of my mental genes enabling the reproductive spread of memes, for altruistic effects in the third world.

Except, of course, my purchases are not wholly charitable. Indeed, I sometimes wonder whether this very arbitrary method might have quite interesting consequences for my small field of literary exploration, in that it will naturally lead me to those books which have been made to drop to the bottom of the meme pool by their depositors which I with my new thesis-meme, however small an influence it may be, might nevertheless once more bring to attention, should my ideas be replicated by others. As well as being a paper purgatory, the second hand book shop is thus also a final, chaotically-ordered line of defence against the demarcations of the "literary" canon as established by the campus and its library of essential texts.

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Posted by Alistair at 9:12 am


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