"Each seizure is like a sort of hemorrhage of innervation," wrote Flaubert to a friend. "The center of image formation in my brain suffers a seminal leak, a hundred thousand images erupt at once, in visual fireworks." His conviction that "something fairly tragic must previously have taken place in my brain box" did not prevent him from trying to squeeze out every drop of his "brain juice" ("cerveau pressé") onto paper. In recent decades, epileptologists have rushed to diagnose the epilepsy from which they are sure he suffered, but how is this relevant to reading his texts? This paper, tracing epileptic imagery in Flaubert’s fiction, argues that the apparent realism of the "useless detail" as described by Barthes and others in his work disguises the surprising intrusion of autobiographical memory into Flaubert’s work. This autobiographical memory, in turn, anchors a counter-fiction of injured self-narrative: content that is present because incomplete, unexpected, disavowed, fragmented, eruptive, and feared. DEBORAH JENSON is Professor of Romance Studies and Co-Director of the Health Humanities Lab. tgiFHI is a speaker series that gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields.
Part of tgiFHI is a speaker series that gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields.
This event is also part of a two-day symposium, “Neurodiversities,” presented by the CHCI Medical Humanities Network and the Duke Health Humanities Lab @ FHI. Co-sponsored by FHI Humanities Futures, DIBS/FHI Neurohumanities Research Group; UNC Institute for Arts & Humanities & HHIVE.