Saturday, November 24, 2007

Defining the Undefinable

Sorry I just have to say how fast this semester has gone by! When I finished The Echo Maker and then looked at the remaining course readings all on the same page. I remember wondering if we would get through them all and I guess we're almost there!
I think Powers had trouble ending this book. Did anyone else find that? I found myself wondering why he spent so much time on Barbara and Weber and the unfolding of emotions the reader didn't have enough basis to understand. The destruction of land and water, the extinction of cranes, relationships, the brain, what else can possibly go wrong? Nothing is really defined until we lose the obsession we had in the first place to define it. Karin has been looking for Mark to find her and then when he comes back for a little while in the end it is less than epic. It doesn't need anything more, they are reunited as brother and sister in a way that is completely sibling, another definition that needs no explaination. The way that Powers leaves out history in The Echo Maker is really interesting. Capgras is the only aspect in the novel that has an origin. Some history of the family dynamic is given in the first part of the book but it mainly deals with the ligistics of the accident. I did like the fact that I didn't know how the book was going to end until the end, but Barbara was responsible for it and I don't think that was ever dealt with. At the same time, how much would it have helped if they knew that she was the one who caused the accident?
The readings this week had a domino affect in my brain. The readings on confabulation and the varied definitions that are given to this state of mind really intrigued me.
Confabulation:
Feinberg- "an erroneous yet unintentional false statement."
Talland- "false verbal statement about facts."
Berlyne- "a falsification of memory occuring in clearn conciousness in association with an organically derived amnesia."
Berios is not convinced that all confabulators have an memory problem.
Wegner- "convenient stories made up to fit the moment."
Mercer- "a necessary (though not sufficient) prerequisite for confabulation is impaired memory function."
I thought this was interesting because is there a universal definition for confabulation? For Capgras? Is it definite that we need to have some sort of impaired memory to be a comfabulator?
In all of these definitions false is the common denominator. I can't help but think that Barbara convinced herself that she was doing good all along. Her intentions, to her, were completely justifible. Maybe that's the part that bothered me, in the wrapping up of the end, nothing was really wrapped up, no remorse, no real 'I'm sorry's' just straight up facts; strangely being the exact opposite of confabulating. Maybe its just that when Barbara is around everyone loses their mind. Weber obviously forgets the life he has built with Sylvie, Karin doesn't know what to think, and Mark is trying to get her a job.
The symbols that are used to help the chapters in Brain Fiction, are the same types of symbols Powers includes throughout the book with the use of Cranes, and the diminishing of land equalling the diminishing of life. What do all these symbols really mean? Do they help us with the texts or are they just a way of using other words to do something that explaination might easily do?

3 comments:

Matt N said...

Hey Molly,
I think you made a great point on the idea of defining such vague terms or categories like confabulation and Capgras’. For every rules or outline that one would look for medically in a medical guide like the DSM, there always seems to be an exception. A person may meet all of the criteria besides one factor and will no longer fit a certain description of a disease— but who’s to say that might not have it. Isn’t that the nature of evolution: The things we know shift in minute proportions until the shift is large enough to see. I know that that is a strange route to attack this but I am just pondering on the fact that could a person have and illness with a defect in it, something unique to them? Exactly like in all of the cases we’ve read this year how illness had benefited or robbed the lives of these patients, like savants and musicians.

The illness is exactly like a person: complex and unique upon itself. There’s a point, in my opinion, where we get into trouble by classifying things. We eventually reach a point where we can continue to pair down but it is a disservice to do so. Take humans for example: we can easily be defined as homo sapien sapien but after that, it’s complicated. Nationality and race are so diluted in our family chains that none of us are more than an conglomeration of different heritages. Even things like gender that would seem concretely discernable aren’t anymore, taking into account transsexuals and the gender confused. What do these tight guidelines for illness do for us? “Great I exemplify several autistic traits but I don’t quite fit on the spectrum?“ What good do all of these super specialized tangents of autism or cancer do to serve us? Is the person still not struggling with the larger umbrella disease, nonetheless? I know that there is something to be said about specialization and how that does help with certain doctors knowing something so well; however, that can be a problem when that is all they know! Just like in class when we talked about that neuro-surgeon (perhaps?) who didn’t know anything besides something in his field. Maybe we as a society should try and step back from labeling everything and find a way to better treat these patients.

Emmy P. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emmy P. said...

I found Molly's questioning of Capgras and Confabulation's clean cut definition and Matt's idea that "the illness is exactly like a person: complex and unique upon itself" quite interesting.

The idea that you can (on some level) learn about a person by their confabulations is quite intriguing or perhaps even misleading. When Mark says Karin cannot be his sister because his sister is a good mechanic can be used as an example. Through his confabulation we can see how Mark idealizes his sister in a way that we probably would not know other wise.

But then here comes the trouble... Mark's assertion is false because Karin is not a good mechanic but in the story aren't we led to believe that this is how Mark perceives her on some level and therefore the statement is true. Is this just another instant where a confabulator stumbles upon the truth?

While I agree with Matt on some level about specialized categorization, I do think the reason why such guidelines exist is not necessarily always for treatment purposes, but rather more financial.

As Lyde said before it was necessary to determine where on the spectrum her son was in order for her to get services. I think a big part of why we create classifications is so we know who is entitled to what and I suppose the ethics of that is an entirely different debate.