Catalogue


The hand : how its use shapes the brain, language, and human culture /
Frank R. Wilson.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Pantheon Books, c1998.
description
xiv, 397 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
0679412492
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
More Details
imprint
New York : Pantheon Books, c1998.
isbn
0679412492
catalogue key
2173439
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 368-378) and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Prologue Early this morning, even before you were out of bed, your hands and arms came to life, goading your weak and helpless body into the new day. Perhaps your day began with a lunge at the snooze bar on the bedside radio, or a roundhouse swing at the alarm clock. As the shock of coming awake subsided, you probably flapped the numb, tingling arm you had been sleeping on, scratched yourself, and maybe even rubbed or hugged someone next to you. After tugging at the covers and sheets and rolling yourself into a more comfortable position, you realized that you really did have to get out of bed. Next came the whole circus routine of noisy bathroom antics: the twisting of faucet handles, opening and closing of cabinet and shower doors, putting the toilet seat back where it belongs. There were slippery things to play with: soap, brushes, tubes, and little jars with caps and lids to twist or flip open. If you shaved, there was a razor to steer around the nose and over the chin; if you put on makeup, there were pencils, brushes, and tubes to bring color to eyelids, cheeks, and lips. Each morning begins with a ritual dash through our own private obstacle course--objects to be opened or closed, lifted or pushed, twisted or turned, pulled, twiddled, or tied, and some sort of breakfast to be peeled or unwrapped, toasted, brewed, boiled, or fried. The hands move so ably over this terrain that we think nothing of the accomplishment. Whatever your own particular early-morning routine happens to be, it is nothing short of a virtuoso display of highly choreographed manual skill. Where would we be without our hands? Our lives are so full of commonplace experience in which the hands are so skillfully and silently involved that we rarely consider how dependent upon them we actually are. We notice our hands when we are washing them, when our fingernails need to be trimmed, or when little brown spots and wrinkles crop up and begin to annoy us. We also pay attention to a hand that hurts or has been injured. The book you are holding is a meditation on the human hand, born of nearly two decades of personal and professional experiences that caused me to want to know more about the hand. Among these, two had the greatest impact: first, as an adult musical novice, I tried to learn how to play the piano; second, as an experienced neurologist, I began to see patients who were having difficulty using their hands. Each experience afforded its own indelible lessons; each spawned its own progeny of questions. Like most people, I have spent the better part of my life oblivious to the workings of my own hands. My first extended attempt to master a specific manual skill for its own sake took place at the piano. I was in my early forties at the time and in my dual role as parent and neurologist had become enchanted by the pianistic flights of my twelve-year-old daughter, Suzanna. "How does she make her fingers go so fast?" was the question that occurred to me when I interrupted my listening long enough to watch her play. I read everything I could about the subject and finally realized I would never find the answer until I took myself to the piano to find out. As a beginning student I imagined that music learning would go just as it is depicted by music teachers: begin with simple pieces, learn the names of the notes, practice scales and exercises, memorize, play in student recitals, then move on (shakily or steadily) to more and more difficult music. But over the course of five years of study my personal experience deviated further and further from this itinerary. It was not that I was fast or slow, musical or unmusical; at various times I was each of those. Despite the guidance of a seasoned teacher armed with the highly polished canons of music pedagogy, the whole enterprise was rife with unexpected turns, detours, and diversions. Inside me, it seems, there was already a plan for being a musician--a mo
First Chapter
Prologue Early this morning, even before you were out of bed, your hands and arms came to life, goading your weak and helpless body into the new day. Perhaps your day began with a lunge at the snooze bar on the bedside radio, or a roundhouse swing at the alarm clock. As the shock of coming awake subsided, you probably flapped the numb, tingling arm you had been sleeping on, scratched yourself, and maybe even rubbed or hugged someone next to you. After tugging at the covers and sheets and rolling yourself into a more comfortable position, you realized that you really did have to get out of bed. Next came the whole circus routine of noisy bathroom antics: the twisting of faucet handles, opening and closing of cabinet and shower doors, putting the toilet seat back where it belongs. There were slippery things to play with: soap, brushes, tubes, and little jars with caps and lids to twist or flip open. If you shaved, there was a razor to steer around the nose and over the chin; if you put on makeup, there were pencils, brushes, and tubes to bring color to eyelids, cheeks, and lips. Each morning begins with a ritual dash through our own private obstacle course--objects to be opened or closed, lifted or pushed, twisted or turned, pulled, twiddled, or tied, and some sort of breakfast to be peeled or unwrapped, toasted, brewed, boiled, or fried. The hands move so ably over this terrain that we think nothing of the accomplishment. Whatever your own particular early-morning routine happens to be, it is nothing short of a virtuoso display of highly choreographed manual skill. Where would we be without our hands? Our lives are so full of commonplace experience in which the hands are so skillfully and silently involved that we rarely consider how dependent upon them we actually are. We notice our hands when we are washing them, when our fingernails need to be trimmed, or when little brown spots and wrinkles crop up and begin to annoy us. We also pay attention to a hand that hurts or has been injured. The book you are holding is a meditation on the human hand, born of nearly two decades of personal and professional experiences that caused me to want to know more about the hand. Among these, two had the greatest impact: first, as an adult musical novice, I tried to learn how to play the piano; second, as an experienced neurologist, I began to see patients who were having difficulty using their hands. Each experience afforded its own indelible lessons; each spawned its own progeny of questions. Like most people, I have spent the better part of my life oblivious to the workings of my own hands. My first extended attempt to master a specific manual skill for its own sake took place at the piano. I was in my early forties at the time and in my dual role as parent and neurologist had become enchanted by the pianistic flights of my twelve-year-old daughter, Suzanna. "How does she make her fingers go so fast?" was the question that occurred to me when I interrupted my listening long enough to watch her play. I read everything I could about the subject and finally realized I would never find the answer until I took myself to the piano to find out. As a beginning student I imagined that music learning would go just as it is depicted by music teachers: begin with simple pieces, learn the names of the notes, practice scales and exercises, memorize, play in student recitals, then move on (shakily or steadily) to more and more difficult music. But over the course of five years of study my personal experience deviated further and further from this itinerary. It was not that I was fast or slow, musical or unmusical; at various times I was each of those. Despite the guidance of a seasoned teacher armed with the highly polished canons of music pedagogy, the whole enterprise was rife with unexpected turns, detours, and diversions. Inside me, it seems, there was already a plan for being a musician--a mo
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-01:
Wilson, a neurologist whose practice consists primarily of individuals with neurological problems with their hands, learned to play the piano as an adult to discover mechanisms by which the hand relates to one's overall persona. Through this effort, and through familiarity with early works that considered the hand as both anatomical/physiological extremity and sociological/anthropological instrument, Wilson was motivated to explore the question, Does the brain control the hand and/or is the hand instrumental in development of the brain? In this exploration Wilson reveals scientific and medical training but the soul of a poet. He considers evolution, development, and anatomy and physiology of the hand; then follow personal reports of individuals whose artistic livelihoods are very much based on hand-brain/brain-hand connections (such as a magician and a puppeteer). Each chapter begins with an appropriate quotation, with sources ranging from Stephen Jay Gould to an auto mechanic. Although there are not formal literature citations in the text, there are copious footnotes and abundant chapter endnotes, essential reading. Twelve-page bibliography. For readers who have wondered, "How did I just write my name? Can I do it as easily when I think about it?" Upper-division undergraduates; graduates; professionals. L. A. Meserve; Bowling Green State University
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1998-06-15:
Neurologist Wilson (Tone Deaf and All Thumbs?) gathers arguments from anthropology, psychology and medicine, along with the personal stories of musicians, backhoe operators, puppeteers and prestidigitators, to demonstrate the centrality to intelligence of our human hand. His account of the coevolution of hand and brain through our primate ancestors is fascinating, and the science he sites is rigorous and profound. The insights along the way are startling to the layperson even if old news to savants. For example, the size of a primate's neocortex is proportionate to the size of its maximum stable social group (our own being about 150). The emphasis throughout is on "the interaction of the biologic and social processes," as, for example, an artist, from early childhood, finds her way toward her instrument, and also as the species itself evolves over millennia, starting, as Darwin observed, with the freeing of the upper limbs by our descent from the trees. Out of the analysis of intelligence as fundamentally somatic there emerges a critique of educational theory. Wilson is a passionate advocate of process-centered teaching with attention to individual intelligences. Despite absorbing material and an ultimately cogent and important argument, his book dwells too long on inessential details of the case histories, and it sometimes loses steam in scholarly discourse; also, the organization into short, pithy chapters obscures the structure of the whole. Thus, although their work is rewarded, readers have to labor a bit too hard to tie the argument together. B&w illustrations throughout. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-07:
A neurologist who specializes in the treatment of manual disorders, Wilson bases his book upon encounters with his patients, his own struggle to learn to play the piano as an adult, and a survey of current research. He concludes that "the hand is as much at the core of human life as the brain itself." Arguing that any theory of human intelligence must consider the interdependence of hand and brain, Wilson examines the human hand from an anthropological, biological, and developmental perspective. If language and tool-use coevolved, suggests Wilson, we should find "analogous links" among language, hand use, and cognition in individuals today. To explore this possibility, he interviewed, among others, a puppeteer, magician, chef, and movement therapist, and he also considers how this "hand knowledge" might have profound implications for learning theory. He raises more questions than he answers, but he does so in a forceful and imaginative way that will totally engage his readers. Recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.‘Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Springfield, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews, June 1998
Publishers Weekly, June 1998
Booklist, July 1998
Library Journal, July 1998
Choice, January 1999
Library Journal, March 1999
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
"The human hand is so beautifully formed, its actions are so powerful, so free and yet so delicate that there is no thought of its complexity as an instrument; we use it as we draw our breath, unconsciously." With these words written in 1833, Sir Charles Bell expressed the central theme of some of the most far-reaching and exciting research being done in science today. For humans, the lifelong apprenticeship with the hand begins at birth. We are guided by our hands, and we are indelibly shaped by the knowledge that comes to us through our use of them. The Handdelineates the ways in which our hands have shaped our development--cognitive, emotional, linguistic, and psychological--in light of the most recent research being done in anthropology, neuroscience, linguistics, and psychology. How did structural changes in the hand prepare human ancestors for increased use of tools and for our own remarkable ability to design and manufacture them? Is human language rooted in speech, or are its deepest roots to be found in the gestures that made communal hunting and manufacture possible? Is early childhood experience in reaching and grasping the secret of the human brain's unique capacity to redefine intelligence with each new generation in every culture and society? Frank Wilson's inquiry incorporates the experiences and insights of jugglers, surgeons, musicians, puppeteers, and car mechanics. His fascinating book illuminates how our hands influence learning and how we, in turn, use our hands to leave our personal stamp on the world.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Prologuep. 3
Dawnp. 15
The Hand-Thought-Language Nexusp. 35
The Arm We Brought Down from the Treesp. 61
Puppet Lessons from Alexandria and Dusseldorfp. 80
Hand, Eye, and Skyp. 95
The Grip of the Pastp. 112
The Twenty-Four-Karat Thumbp. 127
The Right Hand Knows What the Left Hand Just Didp. 147
Bad Boys, Polyliths, and the Heterotechnic Revolutionp. 164
The Articulate Handp. 182
In Tune and Evolving Prestissimop. 210
Lucy to LuLu to Rosep. 231
Tough, Tender, and Tenaciousp. 242
Hidden in the Handp. 258
Head for the Handsp. 277
Epiloguep. 297
Appendixp. 313
Notesp. 318
Bibliographyp. 368
Permissions Acknowledgmentsp. 379
Indexp. 381
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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