Hasslin’ the Hasslers, Prospective Lit PhD Student, and Teaching Capgras Syndrome

Last night, Y and I walked down to Mack and Sue Hassler’s house for a visit. We have all been so busy–Y and I with dissertating and teaching, Sue with her music festival, and Mack with teaching and Faculty Senate–that we haven’t really spoken to one another since the beginning of the semester. Y and I enjoy our visits with the Hasslers, because we can engage in shoptalk as easily as anything not related to the academy.

Today, Dave and I met with a prospective Literature PhD student. We all went to the Ratskeller under the Kent State Student Center to talk about the program over coffee, tea, and a smoothie.

Since then, I have been in the Library working on my lesson plans for this week. My students are beginning the last phase of the semester during which time we will read Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances. Unlike Richard Powers’ The Echo Maker, the reader never learns definitively that Leo Liebenstein has Capgras Syndrome or not, but it is this uncertainly that drives home the point about neurological disorders. The person afflicted with a neurological deficit, illness, or damage has had his or her world shifted in a fundamental way, because it is with the brain that we make sense of the world. If its architecture or operation is impaired in some way, it is unlikely if not impossible for the person to fully grasp what has happened to him or herself. Of course, the person can be told and possibly convinced by someone else, but even this kind of explanation cannot change the fundamental feeling or understanding that the brain disallows due to its creation of our experience of the world. I am looking forward to the classroom discussions this week.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.