Performing Brains on Screen
Performing Brains on Screen
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Table of Contents
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Acknowledgments Note on References and Images

1. Brainhood and the Cinema
The "Deficit Model" and the Agency of Film
Bs to Zs
Filmic Brains in the Neurobiological Age

2. Brains in the Pulps
Scientifiction, Textual and Visual
Advertisement and "Prophetic Insight"
Before Gernsback
Weird Tales
Stories Astounding and Amazing

3. Naked Brains and Living Heads
Brain Movies
Body Parts
The Donor Portion
Living Heads
Some Filmic Allografts
Paradox of the Naked Brain

4. Personal Survival
Immortality and the Brain
Adam and Tithonus
Staying the Same, Becoming Someone Else The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) Change of Mind (1969) The Man With the Transplanted Brain (1971)

5. Frankenstein’s Brains
Shelley’s Novel and Frankenstein Films
The Final Touch: Frankenstein (1931)
The Universal Series
The Hammer Series
Beyond Universal and Hammer

6. Memories, Lost and Regained
A Preference for Retrograde Amnesia
Localizing Memory in the Filmic Brain
Personal Identity and the Authenticity of Memory
Erasing Memories
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Dark City (1998)

7. "Imagine, They Are in the Human Mind"


Reviews and Features

"The Cartesian subject may be dead but our brains still haven’t figured that out. In Performing Brains on Screen, Fernando Vidal provides an impressive survey of the brain as protagonist across a pulpy expanse of fiction and cinema, examining how the continuing equation of brain and selfhood informs popular understandings of identity, consciousness, and memory. Essential reading for neuroscientists, cinephiles, and anyone else who has ever pondered the odd yet enduring convention of brains transplanted, escaped, switched, uploaded, and otherwise liberated from the body as spongy receptacle of selfhood."
- Jeffrey Sconce, Professor in the Screen Cultures program at Northwestern University and a Guggenheim Fellow for 2020-2021.

Fernando Vidal

Performing Brains on Screen

Performing Brains on Screen deals with film enactments and representations of the belief that human beings are essentially their brains, a belief that embodies one of the most influential modern ways of understanding the human. Films have performed brains in two chief ways: by turning physical brains into protagonists, as in the "brain movies" of the 1950s, which show terrestrial or extra-terrestrial disembodied brains carrying out their evil intentions; or by giving brains that remain unseen inside someone’s head an explicitly major role, as in brain transplantation films or their successors since the 1980s, in which brain contents are transferred and manipulated by means of information technology. Through an analysis of filmic genres and particular movies, Performing Brains on Screen documents this neglected filmic universe, and demonstrates how the cinema has functioned as a cultural space where a core notion of the contemporary world has been rehearsed and problematized.

Fernando Vidal

Fernando Vidal is Research Professor of ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) at the Medical Anthropology Research Center, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain.