Re-cognising the body-mind in Shakespeare's theatre [Johnson, Sutton, & Tribble]

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Re-cognising the body-mind in Shakespeare's theatre [Johnson, Sutton, & Tribble]
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  T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334  Introduction Re-cognising the Body-Mind in Shakespeare’s Theatre Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble The phrase “the mind-body problem” does not point to a single, unitary, perennial, and obvious human concern. Many people in different times and places have individually and collectively puzzled or agonized—in a range of intellectual, spiritual, and practical contexts—over the rela-tions between various aspects of their nature which can operate in har-mony or in tension. In English and other European languages, terms like  psychological   and  physical   have come to label what are sometimes seen as two realms or two sets of features and processes—the ingredients for that “mind-body problem.” Yet both body  and mind   have complex and uncertain semantics that exceed the simple binary encapsulated within the parameters of this conceptual “problem.” There is dramatic histori-cal change and cross-cultural variation in the usage and meaning of mind  ,  psychology , and body , of apparently central related general terms such as cognition  and consciousness , and of many more specific “psy-chological” terms such as emotion  and memory . 1 By adopting the less familiar conjoined phrase body-mind   in this volume, we seek therefore to defamiliarize our topics and to embrace the cultural, historical, and indeed scientific diversity of views, prac-tices, and problems about thinking and the passions, imagining and dreaming, planning and communicating—about touch and vision and pain and fury. The essays we include cover an extraordinary array of “body-mind” topics, which cannot be reduced to singular terms. But even the label body-mind  , of course, bears traces of the two connected dichotomous assumptions that our contributors seek to combat: the ideas that mind   and body  each name a unified set of phenomena held together by unique properties, and that there is thus a single problem about how they relate or connect. As a number of these essays suggest, we are so culturally marked by these historically specific assumptions that it is diffi cult to bracket them in addressing other ways of feel-ing, reasoning, remembering, or grieving embedded in quite different lived worlds.In invoking the phrase body-mind  , we also query the standard his-torical attribution of a damaging dualism to the “wound inflicted by Johnson et al 1st pages indd 1 Johnson et al. 1st pages.indd 1 12/30/2013 2:43:53 PM 12/30/2013 2:43:53 PM  2  Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546the Cartesian split of mind and body.” 2  Terms such as  pre-Cartesian  can function as convenient shorthand to note the characteristic melding of physiology and psychology so often seen in early modern humoral and medical discourse, as indeed it is used by many of our own con-tributors. But within the context of a volume of essays about the body-mind in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, we suggest that the labels Cartesian ,  pre-Cartesian , and  post-Cartesian  can mis-lead as well as inform our views of the body-mind. First, there were of course powerful earlier dualist frameworks in play in western cul-ture: certain forms of Platonist and Christian thought and practice, to take just two key traditions, imposed or recommended dramatic divides between body and soul. Second, we risk a teleological reading of the unique historical discourses and feelings about the body around 1600 if we see these only as “pre-” Cartesian. We oversimplify if we simply read Descartes back into earlier and more alien nondualist frameworks for inhabiting the body-mind. Casting holistic humoral materialism as simple antecedents to a brutal “Cartesian” rupture or identifying putative early seventeenth-century signs of interiority and individualis-tic depth as mere harbingers of the Cartesian “invention of the mind” flattens out the complex landscape of the body-mind as it is diversely articulated in the early seventeenth century. Moreover, recent scholar-ship on Descartes’s own work and context overturns the easy narrative by which the cogito alone was meant to ground an entire system of knowledge. Descartes was a natural philosopher of matter and motion who attributed an extraordinary range of capacities to biological sys-tems embedded in complex environments; he also attributed memory, representation, sentience, and imagination to nonhuman animals, Des-cartes consistently focused in the human case on the union or integra-tion of soul and body. Far from exclusively privileging the rational soul, his work substantially restricted its role and scope. He spent more time and energy working out our nature as complex bodies—not mere objects cut off from the world, responding passively to the whim of the soul—but fully and holistically embedded in the buzzing whirl of the fluid-filled cosmos. 3 However we read the history of this debate, increasingly new research in the cognitive sciences and the humanities alike no longer univocally supports privileging the active rational mind over passive biology. We first might note that the cognitive sciences themselves are by no means a monolithic entity, instead denoting a diverse and often divided multidis-ciplinary field. To be sure, some dominant movements within it continue to model cognition as serial digital computation, or neurocentrically reduce thought and affect to brain processes alone. Classical cognitive science has been rightly criticized for its apparent dis embodiment, its assumption that the body and world primarily function as input-output devices for the brain, walling off perception and action from so-called Johnson et al 1st pages indd 2 Johnson et al. 1st pages.indd 2 12/30/2013 2:44:03 PM 12/30/2013 2:44:03 PM  Introduction 3T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546internal cognitive processes, in what Susan Hurley has critiqued as the “classical sandwich.” 4  However, in recent decades challenges to this model have become increasingly mainstream within the cognitive sci-ences. Cognition is increasingly seen, within these new frameworks, as “enactive,” “embodied,” “distributed,” “situated,” or “extended.” Emerging paradigms in the cognitive sciences have increasingly sought to embody and extend cognition beyond the brain. The study of situated minds is intended to go decisively beyond what goes on in the individual skull, examining instead embodied, enactive, dynamic, and distributed cognitive processes as already bodily, social, practical, and worldly. 5  Thus the “mind” as it is currently conceived in many strands of the cognitive sciences is wildly heterogeneous, an on-the-fly assemblage of neural, kinesthetic, somatic, interpersonal, and material resources. We can, in other words, invoke these trends precisely to defamiliarize the idea of the separateness of bodies and   minds.Of course, researchers in the humanities long ago turned their atten-tion to the body. Nearly two decades ago, the “bodily turn” was well enough established and diverse enough to provoke Caroline Bynum’s question: “Why all the Fuss about the Body?” 6  As David Hillman and Carla Mazzio remark in The Body in Parts , in that essay Bynum had laid down the challenge for body work in the humanities since the body had by that time already become “no topic, or, perhaps, almost all topics.” 7  The revisionary work carried out by Hillman and Mazzio and the con-tributors to The Body in Parts  went far in both theorizing the early mod-ern body and in carrying out an acute and particular examination of its “parts”: entrails, nerves, breasts, bellies, brains, genitalia. Hillman and Mazzio caution against imposing a spurious unity upon the body: “in early modern representations, even or especially as a fantasy of the ‘whole body’ emerges, the body is at the same time always, and perhaps inevitably, a body in parts.” 8  In drawing attention to the “materialist habits of early modern thought,” 9  Hillman in his contribution to The Body in Parts  makes a strong case for what Gail Kern Paster terms the “early modern habits of bodily thought and sensation.” 10   The Body in Parts consolidated earlier work and sparked sustained and productive attention to the body in the early modern period, especially within the context of Galenic thought and humoral theory, in which internal and external states are firmly yoked—indeed, mutually constitutive. 11  More-over, research on the ways in which body itself is shaped by social and political forces has been a mainstay of New Historicist thought, par-ticularly insofar as it has been influenced by the earlier work of Michel Foucault. Such work provides a rich foundation upon which the present collection of essays builds.Yet as discussions of body waxed, explicit attention to mind waned, perhaps as a result of concerns that the concept paved the way for a latent universalism to emerge. In “Nervous Tension,” Paster wrote of Johnson et al 1st pages indd 3 Johnson et al. 1st pages.indd 3 12/30/2013 2:44:03 PM 12/30/2013 2:44:03 PM  4  Laurie Johnson, John Sutton, and Evelyn Tribble T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546her desire to “produce a history of affects and behaviors resistant to the seductive evasions and erasures of essentialism.” 12  If the body seems in danger of essentialist readings, perhaps even more so might the mind, particularly as it is sometimes construed in purely rationalist or “cogni-tivist” terms. 13  It must be admitted that there is a strongly universalist or essentialist strain in some so-called cognitive approaches to litera-ture, especially as articulated in more extreme forms of literary Darwin-ism. 14  But as the authors of our essays show, attention to the concept of the “body-mind” can reinvigorate our understanding of the social and extended nature of cognition in the early modern period—what Pas-ter describes in her linking piece in this collection as the “ecological framework of early modern personhood.” In our view, expanding our ambit to the “body-mind” has the potential to open up questions of skill, animation, and kinesthesis. As Garrett Sullivan astutely observes in this volume, embodiment is sometimes viewed as a limiting boundary rather than as means of extension. Such concerns have been echoed in the emerging field of neuroanthropology, in which researchers such as Tim Ingold and Greg Downey have pointed out that the word embodi-ment   can imply the subjugation of the body within a social field. As Ingold suggests, we might think “of the body not as a sink into which practices settle like sediment in a ditch, but rather as a dynamic center of unfolding activity.” 15 It is important to remember that these lines of inquiry are more than merely academic—it remains palpably evident that there is much at stake in the shaping of how Shakespeare and his contemporaries are viewed within the popular imaginary. A prelapsarian myth persists of Shakespeare and (as he tends to be too often set apart from) the early moderns. The discursive fields within which this version of history cir-culates extends beyond the reach of fiction and hyperbolic populism masquerading as criticism—Shakespeare’s invention of the human, for example. 16  No less now than at any other time, the myths that persist within the broad popular imaginary also have their analogues within putatively objective medical or scientific writing. In two recent essays in medical journals, for example, medical practitioner Kenneth Heaton has argued that Shakespeare was particularly adept at describing the physical symptoms or sensory disturbances associated with emotional or mental upset. 17  By analyzing all of Shakespeare’s plays and poems alongside forty-six genre-matched works by his contemporaries, Heaton showed that such conditions as breathlessness, fatigue, and vertigo were described far more often in Shakespeare’s work in correlation with a heightened emotional state such as grief than in works by other writers of the same era, leading him to conclude, “Shakespeare’s perception that numbness and enhanced sensation can have a psychological srcin seems not to have been shared by his contemporaries.” 18  Heaton’s findings Johnson et al 1st pages indd 4 Johnson et al. 1st pages.indd 4 12/30/2013 2:44:04 PM 12/30/2013 2:44:04 PM  Introduction 5T&F Proofs: Not For Distribution12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728293031323334353637383940414243444546are symptomatic , we suggest, in two ways: first, they are symptom-atic of the trend in popular appropriations of Shakespeare—they bear the hallmarks of modern readings that seek to dislocate the works of Shakespeare from their early modern moorings, to make Shakespeare a thoroughly modern thinker; second, Heaton’s comments are “symptom-atic” because they read surface phenomena as having “a psychological srcin.” According to this symptomatic reasoning, Heaton is prepared to read connections between sensations and emotions in Shakespeare  as evidence of an awareness in the playwright that the srcins of external distress reside in inner tumult, while at the same time he makes the mistake that Paster has consistently criticized scholars for making—of assuming that the psychological realm, for early moderns, is distinct from the physiological realm, and that thus physiological accounts of what we see as psychological phenomena must simply be metaphori-cal. 19  Yet, non causa pro causa —Shakespeare and his contemporaries did not view correlation as causation or metaphor in quite the same way as Heaton and his symptomatic reading.Heaton dismisses in rather contemptuous fashion the medical knowl-edge of the early moderns:It is unsafe to try and contextualise the present findings by comment-ing on the occurrence of specific diseases in Shakespeare’s time because concepts of physiology and disease were crude and fanciful, still domi-nated by Galenical ideas like the four humours. The circulation of the blood was not established until after Shakespeare died. 20 All the more reason, we suggest, to not try to read Shakespeare and his coevals outside of their milieu—to resist the desire to want to recuper-ate Shakespeare as a timeless genius able to rise above the “crude and fanciful” notions that pervaded the thinking of all around him. No mat-ter how crude or fanciful such notions may seem, the fact remains that the early moderns—Shakespeare included—left for us myriad disparate artefacts of the embodied cognition through which they conceived their world. One such artefact is the language itself—as the essays in The Body in Parts  demonstrated, the language of the body was at one and the same time also the language through which abstractions were expressed, so a phrase like time being “out of joint” drew its particular force through reference to the painful physical dislocation of the joints. 21  Similarly, as Laurie Johnson has shown, the word anxiety  comes into English at precisely this moment in history, circa 1611, because this is the moment when a need for such a word enters the language—what anxiety  names is the very prospect confronting the early moderns that body and mind may be separable aspects of selfhood. 22  While Shakespeare never used the term, Johnson argues that he describes anxiety remarkably well, Johnson et al 1st pages indd 5 Johnson et al. 1st pages.indd 5 12/30/2013 2:44:04 PM 12/30/2013 2:44:04 PM
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