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Literary Reading at the Limits of Expressibility

An IMC lecture by Don Kuiken, University of Alberta.

Info about event


Tuesday 2 December 2014,  at 13:00 - 15:00


IMC, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, 8000 Aarhus C, Nobelparken, building 1483-3, IMC meeting room


Mette Steenberg, Interacting Minds Centre
Don Kuiken, University of Alberta

Literary Reading at the Limits of Expressibility


 Previous research has identified a way of reading literature that is expressive, that supports articulation of an affective theme, and prompts shifts in self-perception (cf. Sikora, Kuiken & Miall, 2011). Results suggest that (1) expressive reading begins with the immediate destabilization of meaning in response to stylistically enriched textual content (e.g., metaphor, alliteration); (2) response to such stylistically enriched content evokes feeling, including not only emotional feeling but also a felt sense that something “more” has been discerned than can be readily expressed; and (3) this feeling-of-knowing, in turn, evokes reflective explication of successive stylistically enriched passages, a process through which words or phrases initially accentuate and gradually express meanings that had just previously seemed beyond words. A reader's repeated involvement in this three-phase process hypothetically uncovers a text’s guiding affective themes and simultaneously provides an altered sense of self. I will review recent studies indicating that this altered sense of self is embedded within sublime feeling, which includes (1) abrupt recognition of limited conceptual access to an elusive, incongruous, or overwhelming “object”; (2) simultaneously, recognition of a partial (pre-conceptual) grasp of that object; and (3) awareness of the active mode of engagement through which that object becomes further (but still partially) disclosed.

Don Kuiken, University of Alberta