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The sensations you experience when reading poetry

Overview: Using neuroscientific concepts, researchers evaluate the emotional sensation and analytical representations that occur when we read poetry.

Source: University of Tallinn

In addition to looking for the meaning of poems, they can often also be described by the emotions the reader feels while reading them.

Kristiine Kikas, a PhD student at the School of Humanities at the University of Tallinn, explored what other sensations arise when reading poetry and how they influence the understanding of poems.

The aim of the thesis was to study the tactility of language, or sensory saturation, which until now could not be sufficiently analyzed and applied.

“In my research, I see reading as an impersonal process, meaning that the sensations that arise do not seem to belong to the reader or to the poetry, but to both at the same time,” Kikas describes the perspective of her dissertation.

In general, the language of poetry is studied metaphorically to try to understand what a word means directly or figuratively. Another perspective called “affective perspective” usually studies the effects of pre-linguistic impulses or impulses unrelated to the meaning of the word on the reader.

However, Kikas regarded language as a simultaneous proposition and a flow of consciousness, i.e. a discussion that moves from one statement to another, as well as connections that seem to arise intuitively while reading.

She looked for ways to approach verbal language, which is believed to instigate analytical thinking in particular, in a way that would help open sensory satiety and bring their observation to the fore in poetic analysis, along with other ways. to study poetry.

To achieve her goals, Kikas applied Gilles Deleuze’s method of radical empiricism and compared several other approaches to it: semiotics, biology, anthropology, modern psychoanalysis, and cognitive sciences.

In her dissertation, Kikas describes reading as a constant presence in verbal language, which is sometimes more and sometimes less pronounced. This kind of presence can be felt as color, posture or birdsong.

“Following the neuroscientific origins of metaphors, I used the tendency of the human organism to perceive language at the sensory-motor level in my close reading to replay it using body memory. This property allows us to physically experience the words we read,” explains Kikas.

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In general, the language of poetry is studied metaphorically to try to understand what a word means directly or figuratively. Image is in the public domain

According to her, the sensations stored in the body and evoked by words can be regarded as the unity of the reader and the words, or the reader becomes the words. Kikas emphasizes that this can only happen if the multitude of sensations and meanings that arise during reading are recognized.

While the study showed that the saturation associated with verbal language cannot be linked to a broader literary discourse without representative and analytical thinking, the conclusion is that noticing and acknowledging it is important in both the experience and the interpretation of the poem. Kikas summarizes her dissertation. †

Since her research was only the first attempt to explore sensations in poetry, Kikas hopes to provide material for further discussion.

Above all, she encourages readers, in their efforts to understand poetry, to notice and trust even the slightest sensations and impulses aroused during reading, as these are the beginning of even the most abstract meaning.

About this emotion and poetry research news

Author: Kristiine Kikas
Source: University of Tallinn
Contact: Kristiine Kikas – University of Tallinn
Image: The image is in the public domain

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