Inventing the Self

Reading Questions for The Shaking Woman

August 29th, 2013 by Jason Tougaw · No Comments

For those of you posting responses to Siri Hustvedt’s The Shaking Woman, you may want to focus on one (or more) of the following questions. This is by no means a requirement, though. If you want to focus on other questions, ideas, or details, go ahead and do that.

1. Hustvedt refers to her book as an “essay,” rather than a “memoir.” Why do you think she does so? How would you classify it? Why? How does your understanding of the genre shape your reading of the book?

2. In order to tell her own story, Hustvedt explores neuroscience, psychoanalysis, history, medicine, feminism, philosophy, memory, and physiology. Why does she need such a broad range of sources in order to understand the relationship between her physical symptoms and her sense of self? Choose one or two of these sources and discuss some ways they help her understand her experience.

3. Does Hustvedt’s book prompt you to reconsider any of your own assumptions about selfhood?

4. What are the similarities and differences in the ways that Hustvedt and Eakin incorporate neuoroscience in their writing. What are their aims in doing so? What are their methods? How productive are the results?

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