Embodying literature

Esrock, Ellen J.

"This is the common wisdom—that our bodies remain inactive and are thus
inconspicuous to us when we become immersed in reading. It’s part of the story
about being transported to another world and another body, or series of bodies,
crafted of words. I want to suggest that this notion of the quiet, well-behaved
body that doesn’t intrude into one’s reading is, itself, a fiction. And not because I
am using the notion of body in a physiological sense to refer to the focusing of
the eyes or the deciphering of phonological and graphic inscriptions. I am not
even referring to the bodily arousal that one experiences in connection with
familiar emotions, such as those elicited when we respond with sadness to the
death of a long-suffering character, with joy to the reunion of a fictional family, or
even to those emotions evoked from the crafting of the work, like admiration for a
complex narrative or pleasure with rhythmical phrasing. This is not to say that
this discussion of bodies will eschew talk of emotion--far from it--but that it comes
in through the back door, as related to my central concern."



More About This Work

Academic Units
Italian Academy
Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Italian Academy Fellows' Seminar Working Papers
Published Here
March 31, 2011