Directed by Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, the piece recounts highlights of the field’s history as interpreted by Slater (and her detractors) by way of an interpretive bungee cord box. They include the author of the book as a character to guide further critical analysis of what the tales recounted in the volume, as well as the controversy that surrounded the takes in it, can tell us about the sociology and philosophy of science and scholarship more broadly.
According to the company’s website it is “inspired by the fascinating book by Lauren Slater, Opening Skinner’s Box is a whistle-stop tour of the scientific quest to make sense of what we are and who we are, told through ten great psychological experiments and the stories of the people who created them.”
The NYT ran an interesting piece by Eric Grode discussing the troupe’s directorial and productive decisions, and the ways in which their production processes intentionally resembled or related to the production of science.
A favourite quote from that article: “‘For me the box is about the scientific method,’ Mr. Simpson said. ‘You need to create something of a closed system so that it’s repeatable. But that’s kind of a useful pretense because nothing is a closed system. We have to remember that it’s not true,’ he continued, although ‘it’s O.K. to pretend that it’s true because you can learn a lot of useful stuff that way.'”
“L’esprit (dé)réglé: Literature, Science, and the Life of the Mind in France, 1700–1900,” by Florence Vatan and Anne Vila. The abstract reads,
The case studies presented in this special issue illustrate the unique appeal that the puzzle of the mind exerted across fields of knowledge in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They highlight the diversity of approaches and perspectives that the exploration of the mind elicited in literature, philosophy, and the sciences de l’homme. They also testify to the conceptual challenges and persistent nebulousness that surrounded the notion of esprit and its close associates. That fluidity of meaning was, in its way, productive: it provoked debates about the nature of the self, the precarious status of consciousness, and the relevance of human exceptionalism.
“Comment l’esprit vient aux filles… et comment les garçons le perdent: Maladie d’amour, médecine et fiction romanesque au XVIIIe siècle,” by Alexandre Wenger. The abstract reads,
This article proposes a commentary on a little known novel, Les Amours du chevalier de Faublas, written between 1787 and 1790 by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray. The objective is to show a rivalry that existed in the second half of the eighteenth century between the novel and medical treatises as ways to document knowledge of the human mind. Taking as a point of departure the problematic polysemy of the term “esprit” in the eighteenth century, this article reveals how Couvray’s novel engages in therapeutic writing. Its main hypothesis is that as a fictional narrative, the novel discusses the madness of love and the disturbances of the mind.