Document Type

Book Review


The Rumpus

Publication Date



Literature and Languages


"I have always wanted to teach a semester of freshman English using a single text, moving students via rich allusions out beyond it for further reading according to their individual interests. Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer is a collection of essays linking contemporary findings in neuroscience with visionary knowledge dreamed up by writers and artists a hundred years ago. Concepts like Walt Whitman's poetic "body electric" and Virginia Woolf's psychological "stream of consciousness" are proven to have physical origins in our brains and bodies. I created a whole course around the book in Fall '08 at California College of the Arts (CCA), and it worked great! Students found the essays difficult in just the way you would hope: they grumbled but in final evaluations had to admit they had learned a lot. As one guy put it, 'I’m kind of a big fan of this class… I’d be tempted to kill myself if I were handed yet another book of fiction and told to write about it.'"