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The delusion of the Master: the last days of Henry James.

Abstract : The novelist Henry James shared with his brother William, the author of the Principles of Psychology, a deep interest in the ways in which personal identity is built through one's history and experiences. At the end of his life, Henry James suffered a vascular stroke in the right hemisphere and developed a striking identity delusion. He dictated in a perfectly clear and coherent manner two letters as if they were written by Napoleon Bonaparte. He also showed signs of reduplicative paramnesia. Negative symptoms resulting from right hemisphere damage may disrupt the feelings of "warmth and intimacy and immediacy" and the "resemblance among the parts of a continuum of feelings (especially bodily feelings)", which are the foundation of personal identity according to William James. On the other hand, a left hemisphere receiving inadequate input from the damaged right hemisphere may produce positive symptoms such as delusional, confabulatory narratives. Other fragments dictated during Henry James's final disease reveal some form of insight, if partial and disintegrated, into his condition. Thus, even when consciousness is impaired by brain damage, something of its deep nature may persist, as attested by the literary characteristics of the last fragments of the Master.
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Contributor : Paolo Bartolomeo <>
Submitted on : Monday, September 1, 2014 - 9:51:50 AM
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Paolo Bartolomeo. The delusion of the Master: the last days of Henry James.. Neurological Sciences, Springer Verlag, 2013, 34 (11), pp.2031-4. ⟨10.1007/s10072-013-1546-y⟩. ⟨inserm-00879329⟩

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