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Texture - A Cognitive Aesthetics of Reading$
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Peter Stockwell

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748625819

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748625819.001.0001

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Sensation and Empathy

Sensation and Empathy

(p.56) 3 Sensation and Empathy
Texture - A Cognitive Aesthetics of Reading

Peter Stockwell

Edinburgh University Press

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

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