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What makes something literary in your own mind

Forster The act of taking on the perspective and feelings of others is one of the most profound, insufficiently heralded contributions of the deep-reading processes.

The narrative theologian John S. And there is an equal and opposite process of coming back to oneself. It would have been an ordinary request, save for the reality that the young girl had advanced cystic fibrosis and had been told she had only a brief time to live. That amazing teacher gave the young girl a role he hoped would give her the feelings of romantic love and passion that she might never experience in life. She became, he said, the perfect Juliet. Almost overnight, she memorized the lines of Romeo and Juliet as if she had played the role a hundred times before.

It was what happened next that stunned everyone around her. She went on to become one Shakespearean heroine after another, each role performed with more emotional depth and strength than the one before. Years have now passed since she played Juliet.

Drama makes more visible what each of us does when we pass over in our deepest, most immersive forms of reading.

  • For this group of young urban professionals, e-readers, tablets and iPads will be the medium of choice;
  • Depending on the context, its primary triggers can be cognitive or linguistic mind or text;
  • Then, when this narrow focus was deemed too restrictive, it was then expanded to the co-text, the immediate textual environment;
  • Suspense - The tension that the author uses to create a feeling of discomfort about the unknown Conflict - Struggle between opposing forces;
  • It may also be our best bridge to others with whom we need to work together, so as to create a safer world for all its inhabitants;
  • Perhaps unexpectedly the participants in this study are quite conservative readers.

We welcome the Other as a guest within ourselves, and sometimes we become Other. For a moment in time we leave ourselves; and when we return, sometimes expanded and strengthened, we are changed both intellectually and emotionally.

It is an incalculable gift. And there is a gift within a gift.

  1. In the cortical homunculus, the hands and the fingers together with parts of the face like lips and the tongue take up a large part of the neurological map.
  2. Personification - giving non-human objects human characteristics America has thrown her hat into the ring, and will be joining forces with the British. The reading circuitry is elaborated by such simulations; so also our daily lives, and so also the lives of those who would lead others.
  3. When I began the story, I saw the protagonist cleaning woman as being oblivious to the everyday tragedies that skirted just below the surface in the places where she worked. In related work, neuroscientists from Emory University and from York University have shown how networks in the areas responsible for touch, called the somatosensory cortex, are activated when we read metaphors about texture, and also how motor neurons are activated when we read about movement.
  4. To my mind, for an optimally engaged, emotive reading experience to take place, we have to be aware of the condition of both the text and its environment, in both the physical and the cerebral sense.

Perspective-taking not only connects our sense of empathy with what we have just read but also expands our internalized knowledge of the world. Through this consciousness-changing dimension of the act of reading, we learn to feel what it means to be despairing and hopeless or ecstatic and consumed with unspoken feelings.

A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

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As expressed in the play Shadowlands, about the life of C. In a letter to the diplomat Francesco Vettori in 1513, he wrote: I am not ashamed to speak with them, and to ask them the reasons for their actions; and they in their kindness answer me; four hours may pass and I do not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread poverty, I am not frightened by death; I give myself entirely to them.

In this passage Machiavelli exemplifies not only the perspective-taking dimension of deep reading, but also the capacity to be transported from whatever our present realities are to an internal place where we can experience a sharing of the inevitable burdens that typify most human existence whatever our age: A book was like stepping through a mirror. I could go somewhere else. That this freely given immersion in the reading life could be threatened in our culture has begun to emerge as a concern for growing numbers in our society, including an NPR team that spent a whole interview with me on their personal concern about this loss.

  1. In related work, neuroscientists from Emory University and from York University have shown how networks in the areas responsible for touch, called the somatosensory cortex, are activated when we read metaphors about texture, and also how motor neurons are activated when we read about movement.
  2. Within this context, Obama told Robinson that the most important things he had learned about being a citizen had come from novels. Candidates for consideration include a number of theories developed by many different scholars over time.
  3. In the US I used to love reading in the college church and in the stacks of the library. Remember, a poem does not have to have a speaker, and the speaker and the poet are not necessarily one in the same.
  4. Readers want to be in their bedrooms — even resorting to locking the door to safeguard their privacy see respondent 3.
  5. This data can be seen in the table below. This necessary coalescence is represented at an abstract level in the two-dimensional diagram in Figure 5.

What will happen to young readers who never meet and begin to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone totally different? What will happen to older readers who begin to lose touch with that feeling of empathy for people outside their ken or kin? Within this context, Obama told Robinson that the most important things he had learned about being a citizen had come from novels: When I began the story, I saw the protagonist cleaning woman as being oblivious to the everyday tragedies that skirted just below the surface in the places where she worked.

My false and circumscribing inferences flew out one of those windows that open when we see the prejudices we bring to whatever we read. No doubt that was the humbling realization that Berlin intended her readers to discover about themselves. The Son of God for the Secular Age describes a similar confrontation with perspective taking in the realm of nonfiction. There he related his experiences as a young, very devout Catholic boy reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

The Church and the Jews: A What makes something literary in your own mind, each of his books revolves around the need to understand, at the deepest level, the perspective of the other, whether in Vietnam or in a German concentration camp. In Christ Actually, he used the life and thought of the early-20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer to underscore the life-and-death consequences of human failure to take on the perspective of other.

Bonhoeffer preached and wrote unflinchingly, first from a pulpit and then from a what makes something literary in your own mind cell, about the tragic inability of most people at the time both to understand the perspective of the historical Jesus as a Jew and to see the persecution of Jews in Germany from their perspective.

At the heart of his last work, he asked: How would the historical Christ actually respond to Nazi Germany? The unsettling reality, however, is that unbeknownst to many of us, including until recently myself, there has begun an unanticipated decline of empathy among our young people. The MIT scholar Sherry Turkle described a study by Sara Konrath and her research group at Stanford University that showed a 40 percent decline in empathy in our young people over the last two decades, with the most precipitous decline in the last ten years.

Turkle attributes the loss of empathy largely to their inability to navigate the online world without losing track of their real-time, face-to-face relationships. In her view our technologies place us at a remove, which changes not only who we are as individuals but also who we are with one another. Reading at the deepest levels may provide one part of the antidote to the noted trend away from empathy. But make no mistake: For it is also about a more in-depth understanding of the Other, an essential skill in a world of increasing connectedness among divergent cultures.

Research in the cognitive neurosciences indicates that what I call perspective taking here represents a complex mix of cognitive, social, and emotional processes that leaves ample tracks in our reading-brain circuitry. Brain-imaging research by the German neuroscientist Tania Singer expands former conceptualizations of empathy to show that it involves a whole feeling-thinking network that connects vision, language, and cognition with extensive subcortical networks.

Singer emphasizes that this larger network comprises, among other areas, the highly connected neuronal networks for theory of mind, including the insula and the cingulate cortex, which function to connect large expanses of the human brain. Often undeveloped in many individuals on the autism spectrum and lost in a pathological condition called alexithymia, theory of mind refers to an essential human capacity that allows us to perceive, analyze, and interpret the thoughts and feelings of others in our social interactions with them.

Singer and her colleagues describe how the very large neurons in these areas are uniquely suited for the extremely rapid communication necessary in empathy between these areas and other cortical and subcortical regions, including, of all places, the motor cortex. Though it may seem something of a figurative leap to think that the motor cortex is activated when you read, it is closer to a literal, cortical hop.

Reconstruct the fleeting image evoked in the last letter with the image of Anna Karenina leaping upon the tracks. In all likelihood the same neurons you deploy when you move your legs and trunk were also activated when you read that Anna jumped before the train. A great many parts of your brain were activated, both in empathizing with her visceral despair and in some mirror neurons acting this desperation out motorically.

Although mirror neurons may have become more popular than they are fully understood, they play a fascinating role in reading. In related work, neuroscientists from Emory University and from York University have shown how networks in the areas responsible for touch, called the somatosensory cortex, are activated when we read metaphors about texture, and also how motor neurons are activated when we read about movement. These studies are the beginning of increasing work on the place of empathy and perspective taking in the neuroscience of literature.

The cognitive scientist Keith Oatley, who studies the psychology of fiction, has demonstrated a strong relationship between reading fiction and the involvement of the cognitive processes known to underlie both empathy and theory of mind.

The reading circuitry is elaborated by such simulations; so also our daily lives, and so also the lives of those who would lead others.

The novelist Jane Smiley worries that it is just this dimension in fiction that is most threatened by our culture: But novels can be sidelined. When that happens, our society will be brutalized and coarsened by people. Empathy involves, therefore, both knowledge and feeling. It involves leaving past assumptions behind and deepening our intellectual understanding of another person, another religion, another culture and epoch.

It may also be our best bridge to others with whom we need to work together, so as to create a safer world for all its inhabitants.

This emerging work on empathy in the reading brain illustrates physiologically, cognitively, politically, and culturally what makes something literary in your own mind important it is that feeling and thought be connected in the reading circuit in every person. The quality of our thought depends on the background knowledge and feelings we each bring to bear.