Ryan Edel - "On the Writer’s Brain: A Neurosemiotic Approach to Creativity, Language, and Social Justice"
In the age of Facebook and MRI machines, “defining” writing has become a troubled occupation for teachers. While fMRI studies are now beginning to differentiate those areas of the brain which generate ideas from those which recall words and move the hand, scholars such as Favareau argue that such positivist approaches ignore the semiotic nature of intellect – neurologists might envision the mind as a machine, but literary scholars still favor the evolving response to signs and signification as a model for intellect. However, bridging these two approaches may help us understand how the social disconnection between students and teachers leads to pervasive – and seemingly irreparable – differences between academic expectations and student performance. Theories from both camps depend heavily upon the concept of mirror neurons – specialized cells which selectively mimic observed reality via mental rehearsal. I argue that the socialized differences in values among social groups (particularly between students and teachers) leads language learners to mentally disconnect from the classroom in ways which prevents the uptake of new skills.
Ryan Edel is a Ph.D. student in English Studies at Illinois State. His areas of concentration are creative writing and rhetoric, particularly examining how the writing spaces of social media such as Facebook and Twitter are used to establish and reinforce social relationships. He's also interested in how these uses of digital technologies may reflect the social evolution of the mind as a biological entity.
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