Representation and Immersion. The Embodied Meaning of Literature

Pierre-Louis Patoine 1
  • 1 Sorbonne Nouvelle University, , 75012, Paris, France


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.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Barsalou, L., Barbey, A. K., Simmons, W. K., & Santos, A. (2005). Embodiment in religious knowledge. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 5(1–2), 14–57.

  • Barthes, R. (1975). The pleasure of the text. Transl. Richard Miller. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

  • Baudrillard, J. (1981). Simulacres et simulation. Paris, France: Galilée.

  • Boulenger, V., Hauk, O., & Pulvermüller, F. (2009). Grasping ideas with the motor system: Semantic somatotopy in idiom comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 19, 1905–1914.

  • Bloom, K. G. (2003). Ladies reading and writing: Eighteenth-Century women writers and the gendering of critical discourse. Modern Language Studies, 33(1/2), 60–72.

  • Calvo-Merino, B., Grèzes, J., Glaser, D. E., Passingham, R. E., & Haggard, P. (2006). Seeing or doing? Influence of visual and motor familiarity in action observation. Current Biology, 16, 1905–1910.

  • Coleridge, S. T. (2013 [1817]). Biographia Literaria. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from

  • Curtis, R. (2014). An introduction to Einfühlung. Art in Translation, 6(4), 353–376.

  • Decety, J., Jeannerod, M., Germain, M., & Pastene, J. (1991). Vegetative response during imagined movement is proportional to mental effort. Behavioral Brain Research, 42(1), 1–5.

  • Eno, B. (2011). Composers as Gardeners. Retrieved from

  • Gallese, V., & Lakoff, G. (2005). The Brain’s concepts: The role of the sensory-motor system in conceptual knowledge. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 22(3–4), 455–479.

  • Garbarini, F., & Adenzato, M. (2004). At the root of embodied cognition: Cognitive science meets neurophysiology. Brain and Cognition, 56(1), 100–106.

  • Gass, W. H. (1970). Fiction and the figures of life. New York, NY: Knopf.

  • Gu, X., & Han, S. (2007). Attention and reality constraints on the neural processes of empathy for pain. NeuroImage, 36(1), 256–267.

  • de Heusch, L. (2006). La Transe et ses entours. Bruxelles, Belgium: Éditions Complexe.

  • Jacobson, E. (1927). Action currents from muscular contractions during conscious processes. Science, 66, 403.

  • Lipps, Th (1903-1906). Ästhetik. Psychologie des Schönen und der Kunst. Hambourg/Leipzig, Germany: Leopold Voss.

  • Melzack, R., & Katz, J. (2006). Pain in the 21st century: The neuromatrix and beyond. In G. Young (Ed.), Psychological knowledge in court: Ptsd, pain and Tbi (pp. 129–148). New York, NY: Springer.

  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (2005 [1945]). Phenomenology of perception, transl. Colin Smith. London, England: Routledge.

  • Murray, J. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The future of narrative in cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

  • Nietzsche, F. (2010 [1895]). Twilight of the Idols. Transl. W. Kaufmanm & R. J. Hollingdale. Handprint online editions. Retrieved from

  • Rimbaud, A. (1958 [1871]). Lettre à George Izambard – 13 mai 1871. Œuvres (pp. 305–306). Paris, France: Mercure de France.

  • Shklovsky, V. (2015 [1917]). Art, as Device, transl. Alexandra Berlina. Poetics Today, 36(3), 151–174.

  • Singer, T., Seymour, B., O’Doherty, J. P., Klaas, E. S., Dolan, R. J., & Frith, C. D. (2006). Empathic neural responses are modulated by the perceived fairness of others. Nature, 439(7075), 466–469.

  • Sontag, S. (1964). Against interpretation. In Against interpretation and other essays. New York, NY: Delta Books, pp. 3–14.

  • Tolkien, J. R. R. (1965). Tree and leaf. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

  • Vischer, R. (1873). Über das optische Formgefühl. Ein Beitrag zur Ästhetik. Leipzig, Germany: Hermann Credner.

  • Wallace, D. F. (2006 [1996]). Infinifte Jest. New York, NY: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company.

  • Wittgenstein, L. (2009 [1953]). Philosophical investigations. Chichester, England: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Wolfe, C. (2012). Before the law: Humans and other animals in a biopolitical frame. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Woolf, V. (2002 [1926]). On being Ill. Ashfield, MA: Paris Press.

  • Zeki, S., & Lamb, M. S. (1994). The neurology of kinetic art. Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 117, 607–636.

  • Zeki, S. (1999). Art and the brain. Daedalus, 127(2), 71–103.


Journal + Issues