It is peculiar for a book of literary history to posit an “age of the brain.” Approaches to periodization are various, with poetry gathered by calendars, nationalities, ethnicities, religions, styles, and philosophies. But by organs? Nikki Skillman, in her debut book, does not suggest that there was ever an age of the heart, of the eye, or of the stomach. Yet she hypothesizes a twentieth-century “cognitive revolution,” entailing a scientific and philosophical consensus that the mind is wholly physical and embodied and that its origin and limits can be found in nonintentional brain matter. Indeed, many philosophy seminars these days dismiss Cartesian dualism as a nonstarter, to be laughed out of the room rather than seriously engaged. Gone is the intractable problem of mind and body, rupturing the long “continuum of transcendental representations of human mentality that extends from Romanticism through the...

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