Nautilus

The Novelist and Critic Siri Hustvedt Raises an Eyebrow at Science

What separates the sciences from the humanities? What unites them? And how can they each illuminate the nature of mind and self? These were some of the questions on Siri Hustvedt’s mind as she began her new book of essays, A Woman Looking At Men Looking At Women. Hustvedt herself has an omnivorous professional history that blends the two worlds in unconventional ways. She is an essayist, poet, and novelist (best known for her recent novel The Blazing World), an English literature PhD by training, and lectures on psychiatry at the Weill Medical School of Cornell.

In her essays, Hustvedt uses this eclectic expertise to jump freely from the arts to empirical science and back again. What might at first appear to be an insoluble combination of characters—from Pablo Picasso and the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to the psychologist Steven Pinker and 17th century natural philosopher and poet Margaret Cavendish—Hustvedt unites by the questions they each, in their own ways, entertain: What is the difference between mind and brain? Who is the self? What can we be certain of? In a

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