Growing up, Judy Bolton-Fasman watched her mother study Don Quixote, propping the book up on their kitchen counter while studying for her Master’s in Spanish literature. Her mother was a native speaker, but Cervantes was still a tough writer to figure out, especially if you were reading his work while trying to cook dinner in the background. The author looks back on her mother’s education in a Saturday Essay for The Rumpus.
Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.