Embodied simulation, a basic functional mechanism of our brain, and its neural underpinnings are discussed and connected to intersubjectivity and the reception of human cultural artefacts, like visual arts and film. Embodied simulation provides a unified account of both non-verbal and verbal aspects of interpersonal relations that likely play an important role in shaping not only the self and his/her relation to others, but also shared cultural practices. Embodied simulation sheds new light on aesthetic experience and is proposed as a key element for the dialogue between neuroscience and the humanities within the biocultural paradigm.
The aim of this paper is to compare Brechtian theory concerning empathy in theatre and recent studies showing the biological basis of empathy. First of all, a brief summary about the concept of empathy is provided, with particular attention to empathy in Brechtian theatre. Then, a paragraph is dedicated to explain how empathy and emotional involvement are linked to neurobiological mechanisms and body state. In the end, an analysis of the Verfremdungseffekte in the Threepenny Opera is traced to understand how recent studies contradict Brechtian theory as far as empathy is concerned.
The term empathy has become a linguistic commonplace in everyday communication as well as in interdisciplinary research. The results of the research questions, raised in the last hundred (and more) years, coming from different areas, such as aesthetics, psychology, neurosciences and literary theory, lack in fact a clear concept of empathy. Not surprisingly, a recent paper has identified up to 43 distinct definitions of empathy in academic publications. By reconstructing the main research lines on empathy, our paper highlights the reasons for this conceptual inadequacy and the deficiencies in the theorization of empathy that create misleading interpretations thereof. Along the line connecting Plato’s insights on empathic experiences to the present neuroscientific experiments, a broad spectrum of issues is deployed for which “empathy” functions as an umbrella term covering a net of categorical relationships – projection, transfer, association, expression, animation, anthropomorphization, vivification, fusion, and sympathy – that only partially overlap. Our paper therefore recommends that “empathy” should not be assumed as a self-evident notion but instead preliminarily clarified in its definition every time we decide to have recourse to it.
In the epistemic frame of the biocultural turn and of the neuroaesthetics, we have developed neurohermeneutics as an approach to literature that aims at contributing to the current debate about the linkage between literary, cognitive and neuroscientific studies, focusing on the relationship between mindbrain processes mirrored in the formal features of the text and the strategies activated by the author in a text in order to guide the reader in imagining, emotionally feeling and cognitively getting meanings out of the literary experience. The aim of the neurohermeneutical approach is to grasp and describe phenomenologically the mirroring process between the two extremes of the literary experience, i.e. the writer’s creative process as it is mirrored in the formal features of the literary work and the reader’s imaginative reconfiguration of the text, and what they share in common. The reader revives the mental imaginative processes of the author by creating his/her unrepeatable individual experiences of the text and subjectively redesigning it in an endless loop of features that trigger the imagination and its creative potential both while writing and by reading literature.
Humans know when they themselves experience beauty, even though the term itself has been difficult to define adequately for a variety of reasons. Given this centuries’ old failure to give an adequate definition of beauty, perhaps the time has come to enquire whether the experience of beauty, regardless of its source, can be defined in neural terms.
This article explores the relations among three forms of representations (artistic, mental, and neural) and immersion, considered as an altered state of consciousness, in the context of literary reading. We first define immersive reading as an intensification of our embodied experience of literary representation, in accordance to neuropsychological studies about embodied cognition. We further consider the style of interpretation demanded by such immersive reading and its ethical and ecological underpinnings.
This paper investigates the nature of creativity in language and linguistics. Following Sampson (2016), it distinguishes between F-creativity (which roughly equals linguistic productivity) and E-creativity (which leads to new and unexpected innovations). These two notions of creativity are discussed on the basis of examples from three different domains: snow cloning, mismatch/coercion, and aberration. It is shown that pure E-creativity may only be found in the case of aberration. Both snow cloning and mismatch/coercion are examples for F-creativity, but to varying degrees. As a consequence, it is suggested that in practice, F- and E-creativity actually form a cline, rather than a dichotomy.