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Kingerlee, R. (2010). Iain McGilchrist: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-300-14878-7, 597 pp., £28.00 (hbk.), £10.99 (pbk.).. Neuropsychoanalysis, 12(2):222-223.
(2010). Neuropsychoanalysis, 12(2):222-223
Iain McGilchrist: The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-300-14878-7, 597 pp., £28.00 (hbk.), £10.99 (pbk.).
Review by: Roger Kingerlee
It's rare that you come across a book that changes the way you think, rarer still a book that offers a persuasive critique of your own actual thinkingprocesses, but Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western Worldcan do both these things.
Beyond psychiatry, McGilchrist has not hitherto been a tremendously well-known figure. He began his career as a Fellow in English at All Souls College, Oxford. Then, in the early 1980s, in a move that, to judge by a letter of 1983, left Philip Larkin, sometime resident of that College, somewhat baffled, McGilchrist retrained in medicine, eventually becoming, for a period, Clinical Director of the Bethlem & Maudsley Hospital in London. Clearly, McGilchrist has taken his time in writing. But the book he has produced over the intervening decades has been worth waiting for, and his qualifications for the neuropsychological-cultural task he sets himself are unique.
McGilchrist's achievement in this major work is to synthesize a mass of neuropsychological and cultural evidence and to marshal it into an original and possibly brilliant argument. In the first section of the book, operating more as a psychiatrist, McGilchrist takes the reader on a painstaking but (in keeping with his background in English) beautifully written and highly detailed tour of neuropsychological and neuropsychiatric material, around the question of hemispheric differences.
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