How the Science of Memory Seduced Joyce Carol Oates

The author speaks about scientific ethics, exploitation, her fascination with neuroscience, and her part in the PEN ‘Charlie Hebdo’ controversy. “PEN is supposed to be for freedom of expression, but when these writers dared to have an expression that was a little different, they were attacked.” In Joyce Carol Oates’ 2015 memoir, The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age, the 77-year-old author frequently stresses the unreliability of memory. After introducing her deceased husband, Raymond Smith, she abruptly interrupts the narrative: “I’m sorry,” she writes, “but I am not able to write about Ray here.”  Oates returns to the unreliable memory in her new novel, The Man Without a Shadow, about an amnesiac lab subject, Elihu Hoopes (“E.H.”), whose short-term memory loss is probed by a group of prestigious neuroscientists.…

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