Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jane Austen was my First Love and Lay

I'm am so full of ideas today, I could make an fMRI scanner go wild and scream for more! To anyone who says sites like Twitter and Facebook are mind-numbing, I won't beg to differ but I will say this: "Like, no way!"

The invigorating and educational nature of the Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/andTheLike experience all depends on the Twitterer/Tweeter/Facebooker/Pinterestian/andTheLiker. These budding outlets/inlets are opening up a whole new kind of intellectual world for brains like me. A whole new art world, too. Egads. It's the multi-media mainstreaming of Western culture. The flood, it cometh. Why resist?

That's the thing about The Unknown; even though you may feel flooded by it, chances are you can only come to know it a little bit, inch-by-inch, piece-by-piece, at a time. Who knew that I would open up my "Twitter Feed" (kind of like corn feed for cows, only newsfeed for newsies) and see my brain suspended in dark matter (or against a black background) next to an image of Jane Austen with her mustache of an upper lip and her scrunchy bonnet (to be technical). Just when ya start to think life ain't worth living, there's the smug and defiant toddler face of Twitter, Tweeting you a revelation:

"Your brain loves Jane Austen"

I knew it, I knew it. How did Laura Miller know it, too?

How did she know that I drew hearts all over my copy of Sense and Sensibility in high school? Who's she been talking to (and how can get in on that conversation)? Oh, wait, I know, she must have called my h.s. b.f.f. (big flaming firecracker), Heather, who couldn't have cared less that my brain was loving Jane Austen in the backseat of her parents' red Saturn because her brain, along with the brains of her parents, was, and were, too busy loving J.K. Rowling via the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I don't know how we ever made it to Cedar Point with all the brain-love in that car!

Yes, it's true, my brain loves Jane Austen. And if you write (Tweet, FBook, Pine/ter) something provocative, or even something mundane that I can use for my own strange and creative purposes: my brain will love you, too. It's incredible - what happens with one's brain. What love can do. Actually, what Jane Austen can do. She can make love to your brain, that's what. I don't know that she will, but she can. I do know that she can because she did. She did me.

I said it: Jane Austen was my brain's first love and lay.

She was no crap-shag; she was Shagianity itself. Jane Austen, yo-literally, brought love into my brain. She brought love into my brain for the first time, at the right time and when I was ready. She was so kind, my brain will never forget her and will love her infinitely and will write to death of this love. Brain be damned, and all else, too. Jane is a tender brain-lay.

I never knew anything about love (i.e., sense and senseless pleasure) until Jane Austen read Sense and Sensibility to me. She read it to me, not on audio cassette or on CD but, to and through my brain. Jane Austen changed my brain. And, guess what: after reading Laura Miller's interview of Michigan State University assistant professor of English, Natalie Phillips, my brain is feelin' the love, once again. Not only that, but the light bulb in my teacher-brain (that arbitrary but ubiquitous segment of the brain) is shining brightly. The alarms are sounding. The Price is (no doubt) Right! Jane Austen must love my brain, too, 'cause she keeps coming back for more.

Reading this article, on the effects of pleasure versus close reading on the brain, has altered my brain intensely (for today, at least). Which is nice, because I was about to go to a snack machine in search of some Rold Golds and Cherry Twist Twizzlers but now I am saving money and feeding my loving little brain instead (I'll deal with the empty stomach later: My stomach loves Enriched Flour, which doesn't bode well for a long-lasting romance).

Natalie Phillips told Miller, "Really the biggest surprise to date is just how much the brain is shifting in moving between close reading and pleasure reading...With pleasure reading...we did see some unique regions activated. That suggests that pleasure reading is not just some more lax or dormant state. And we're seeing the whole brain activating for the close reading state."

Now I'm no neuroscientist (this should be a song), but I know someone who is and I know she will be skeptical about there being only one subject who has, to date, been fully evaluated. I mean, so what if Miller's jumping the gun and reporting on a study that is not yet significant enough to be unleashed on the masses. So what if the Love in your Brain for JA is only based on Natalie Phillips' preliminary work. Even with my Brain of Janelove, even in my perception clouded with pleasure fog; Phillips' casual report that "with pleasure reading, at least in the one subject for whom we have been able to fully evaluate it so far, we did see unique regions activated" had me, fortheloveofAusten, ...wondering.

Fortunately, my brain loves Jane so much that it shut down that rational wonder immediately and replaced it with memories of sleepless summer nights with Jane. That's what happens: your brain loves Jane Austen and it's over. Rationality, that is. Even the safeguard of intelligence dissipates. But I feel good 'cause my brain has a love! Brainlove is irrational. I don't need to know the experimental factors: I'm an Instant Believer (like instant coffee, not the best out there but convenient, easy and available). I don't even need to know any more, at this point, to be convinced. That's what blind belief's all about. And if Jane Austen loves my brain, I'm not gonna let my brain be held back by the trivialities of scientific skepticism. No, my brain would be a fool and my brain won't have that any more. My brain is through with loveless skepticism, my brain wants the wonder of belief.

Watch out World, 'cause my brain is gonna go to town and do what it has always wanted to do: engage in mutual love relations with Jane Austen.


Hey, hey, hey now. My brain isn't here to convince anyone else's brain of anything. Doubters be doubters. To brains everywhere, I say, "Live and let live."

According to Miller, "neuroscientists who have studied such things in the past have rarely distinguished between types of reading or observed subjects engaged in the protracted reading of complex texts." Yeah, I'm with Miller. Who cares what those neuroscientists have studied. Who cares what "such things" might be. Whatever. Our brains don't care. Our brains are in love. With Jane. I don't even care whether or not Miller has done "adequate" research on this subject before interviewing Phillips. For what hand can research lend the brain of love!

"I don't know much, but I know I love you-ou-ou. That may be all I need to know..."


Sing it, Lionel, but sing it to my brain. As for Jane, I'm afraid she's a no-brainer.

Calling all ye disbelieving neuroscientists. See, here. See, here:

A lot of good can come from love. In the name of (brain) love. Your skeptical brain can love (Jane Austen), too. Consider the wonders my brain has done for me (wow-wee...).

You want proof. Well, fine, then. It isn't any cell off my brain. I'll appease you.

1. This article inspired me. I am now going to "spread the love," like Nutella on a rock hard brownie, on Thursday and read it aloud to my Composition class.

2. This article inspired me. News Alert. News Alert. Bureaucratically Incorrect Warning: "Teacher Plans to Pleasure Students(' brains) with...Texts." From now on, I will incorporate pleasurable and pleasuring reading activities at the beginning of class in order to activate parts of the brain that I know nothing about (like the somatosensory cortex and the motor cortex). I will do this with the blind, unscientific, romantic belief that it will somehow productively affect their critical/close readings and engagement with information throughout the entire brain-pleasuring (in idealistic new-teacherly delusion, I hope) class experience.

Do I dare mention my new Pedagogy of Brain-Jacking-Off in the Classroom? No?! Oh, don't worry, ye of little faith and with your panties in a bunch: We'll call it "Janing-Off in the Classroom." Surely, that way, the Brains Without Love (i.e., Bureaucrat Brains) will never notice. Since when do the BWLs ever turn their attention to womanly pleasure, anyway? Our brain-pleasuring experiments in the classroom will just slip under the radar and work their pioneering magic spells via the underground, grassroots way of all of the great radical teachers of the past! The sinister goal (my unscientific theory): that pleasure, somewhere/anywhere in the brain, will increase students' (and teachers' - they matter, too-oo!) receptiveness to and ability to think analytically.

3. This article inspired me. I plan to revisit and finish Roland Barthes' "The Pleasure of the Text" during my "break" in December so that I might be able to use it as the base (or brain) of my Composition court(ship)/course for semesters to come... Ever so slowly or ever so abruptly, I plan to use the Pleasure Principle in teaching composition courses from now on. Anyone who tries to stop me clearly has no love in his brain.

If your pleasure-deprived brain is interested, do it a favor, immediately, and check out the article:

"Who does your brain love, who does your brain need...when your brain comes undone?"

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