may be necessary. We all basically have the same worldview,rnas far as linguistic differences are concerned.rnBut the news of this correction has not yet seepedrnthrough to most contemporary pundits of aesthetic theory,rnand the old cliches of the thirty-four Eskimo words forrnsnow [there is no such thing] and the lack of a past andrnfuture tense in some Plains hidian languages are still trottedrnout as evidence of the incommensurability of differentrncultural “worlds” (and thus of the arbitrariness of valuernjudgments). We can forgive someone likernWittgenstein for the idea of different language games,rngiven the state of anthropological and neuropsvchologiealrnresearch in his times; it is harder, however, to forgive contemporaryrncultural relativists who should know better bvrnnow.rnTo demonstrate the fallacy of these rclativistic views, Turnerrncites a number of new studies which reveal, for instance, thatrnwords for the same primary colors exist in languages throughoutrnthe world and that people in all the world’s cultures drawrnmetaphors from one sense to describe another in a unidirectionalrnway.rnAnother cultural universal, cited by Turner in an essav entitledrn”The Neural Lyre,” is poetic meter. A poet of considerablernskill, Turner brings to his study of meter (conducted withrnpsychophysicist Ernst Poppel) both practical and theoreticalrnknowledge. Analyzing poetry from a number of languages—rnranging from the more familiar English and Greek to Ndcmbu,rnEipo, and Finnish—Turner describes the way the brain understandsrntime, how meter is tied to the brain’s own neurochemicalrnreward system, how poetic line length is determined by thernbrain’s method of information-processing, and how meter engagesrnand integrates many different functions of the brain. I lernalso demonstrates meter’s cultural universality.rnBriefly, Turner argues in the “Neural Lvre” that the humanrnbrain has a number of built-in tendencies: an incomplete listrnincludes the fact that it is hierarchical, reflexive, synthetic, active,rnrhythmic, hemispherically specialized, and self-rewarding.rnTurner cites Jerre Levy’s research showing that “the left brainrnmaps spatial information onto a temporal order, while the rightrnbrain maps temporal information onto a spatial order” to suggestrnhow metrical poetry unites the linguistic capabilities of thernleft brain with the spaeio-temporal abilities of the right andrnjoins them both with other processes in the forebrain and limbicrnsystem to create the overall body-brain response we experiencernwhen reading or hearing poetry: the chill up the spine, thernquickened breath, the heightened state of awareness, the risingrnof hair on the back of the neck.rnhi one of his most daring attempts at synthesis. Turner tiesrnthe “self-rewarding” capacities of the brain to another of its tendencies,rnfor which he has coined the term “kalogenctic,” a wordrncombining the Greek words for “beauty” and “genesis” and describing,rnin Turner’s words, the brain’s “strong drive to constructrnaffirmative, plausible, coherent, consistent, parsimonious,rnand predietively powerful models of the world.” Gitingrnstudies of brain chemistry. Turner argues that the brain rewardsrnitself for the experience of beauty by feeling a drug-like “high”rnproduced by endorphins and other opiate-like substances andrnsuggests that metrical poetry triggers this experience by allyingrnitself with various information-processing capacities of the humanrnbrain.rnAnother tendency of the human brain. Turner argues, is thatrnit is determinative. “That is,” Turner writes, “it insists on certaintyrnand unambiguity, and so is at war with the probabilisticrnand indeterminate nature of the most primitive and archaicrncomponents of the universe.” The brain also finds itself at warrnwith poststrueturalist theories that regard literary texts as vaguernand misty seas of Cjuantumlikc “traces” and “differances.” hi hisrndiscussion of trope in Beauty, Turner counters such postmodernrntheories by reminding us that critical theory is largely a leftbrainrnphenomenon which cannot deal effectively withrnmetaphor, poetic meter, and other “neuroeharms” that engagernthe whole brain, hi “Performed Being,” he suggests a wayrnaround postmodern difficulties with linguistic reference andrnliterary interpretation by reminding us that drama, for instance,rnoriginated in religious ritual performance. He suggests that arnperformative method of literary interpretation might be analogousrnto the act of measurement in quantum physics, wherernmeasurement forces an electron to declare a specific velocitv orrnlocation, hi dramatic pcrforiiiaiice, Turner argues, a text mustrnsimilarlv “choose an objective and must sacrifice the divine iiidctcriiiiiiacvrnand infinitude of possibilitv for the tragic and concreternfinitude of actuality.” The goal of an ideal critic, he suggests,rnmight be “to give so lucid, so definite a reading that thernwork is actualized and made concrete before us, and reincarnatedrninto the deepest idiom and costume and dialect of ourrnown time.” Plot, since it is the driving force of both epic andrntragedy, is therefore central to aiiv performative approach tornliterature. Readers need it in order to plav out a literarv work’srnactions and ideas on their own passions and sympathies.rnOf course many people are put off by such seientihe foraysrninto the arts—particularly when they challenge long-held orrnpolitically self-serving beliefs. To test the validity of Turner’srnanalysis, consider so-called performance art of recent decades,rna distinctively modern form which eschews traditional artisticrndisciplines and generally replaces plot with some type ofrnimprovisation. At its center, there is usually a solitary performerrnengaged in some form of exhibitionistie, dangerous, or self-destructivernactivity. Wc have all seen or read about performancesrnin which artists have deliberatelv abased or mutilated their ownrnbodies—acts that might easily be read as attempts to reclaimrnthe human bodv and restore some of the public and ritualisticrnfunctions to art. hi the absence of art’s natural classical forms,rnsuch performances might appear inevitable and necessary—rnperhaps even heroic.rnYet the narcissism and destructive violence of many of thesernpieces show the limits of the modern aesthetic. Like poetry reducedrnto inarticulate sound bites, performance art of this sort isrnsubject to a law of diminishing returns. That artists feel it necessaryrnto slash or shoot themselves in order to assert the body’srnpresence testifies to their imaginative failure. The logical endrnof such performances, if pursued with the usual spirit of avantgardernone-upmanship, is personal and cultural suicide.rnAt present, the arts seem poised either to dissolve in the reductiornad absurdum of avant-garde experiment or to reincarnaternthemselves in their natural classical forms. To cede plot, tonality,rnpoetic meter, and artistic representation to the entertainmentrnindustries and disappear from serious art, or to reinvestrnthose ancient neurocharnis with the magic to enchant futurerngenerations. We can either reinvent the aneient forms of mythrnand epic, verse drama and poetic narrative, or continue torndissipate their energies in the cntropie spiral of avant-gardernexperiment. “^rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn