Sensation and Empathy

Peter Stockwell

in Texture - A Cognitive Aesthetics of Reading

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780748625819
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651511 | DOI:
Sensation and Empathy

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This chapter considers the connection between physical feeling and literary experience, captured in the term sensation. Some experiences of literary reading can feature actual physical responses, such as laughter, chuckling, smiling, smirking, or shivering, hairs-prickling, catching of breath, or heart-racing and quickness of breathing, or bodily shying away, moving the book to arm's length, arousal, a lump in the throat, or crying and so on. These are all clear physical manifestations of emotions and feelings that are immediate and direct. Texture is treated here as the point at which physical and conceptual sensations become identical. Sensation is also connected to readerly empathy and sympathy. Where sensation in literary reading can be understood as a ‘feeling of…’, sympathy is an extension of sensation along a cline of projection towards a ‘feeling for…’, and empathy is a final shift along the cline to a ‘feeling with…’. In spite of these differences, the fundamental premise of the chapter is that all three affective responses are basically the same aspect of the embodiment principle to varying degrees of projected abstraction.

Keywords: literary reading; physical feelings; literary experience; sympathy; projected abstraction

Chapter.  22732 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Linguistics

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