In kind : the enactive poem and the co-creative response
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How we approach a poem changes it. Recently, it has been suggested that one readerly approach – a bodily orientation characterised by distance, suspicion, and resistance – risks becoming reflexive, pre-conscious, and predominant. This use-oriented reading allows us to destabilise, denaturalise, dissect, defend, and define poetic texts through its manifestation in contemporary literary critique, yet it is coming to be regarded as the sole manner and mood of intelligent, intellectual engagement. In this thesis, I demonstrate the need to pluralise this attentive orientation, particularly when it comes to contemporary lyric poetry. I suggest how an overlooked mode of response might foster a more receptive mode of approach: the ‘co-creative’ response. Lyric poems mean to move us, and they come to mean by moving us. Recent ‘simulation theories of language comprehension’, from the field of cognitive neuroscience, provide empirical evidence that language processing is not a product of a-modal symbol manipulation but rather involves ‘simulations’ by certain classes of neurons in areas used for real-world action and perception. As habituation and abstraction increase, however, these embodied simulations ‘streamline’, becoming narrow schematic ‘shadows’ of once broad, qualitatively rich simulations. Poems, I suggest, seek to reverse this process by situationally novel variations of language, coming to mean in the broadly embodied sense in which real-world experiences ‘mean’. Readers are asked to ‘enact’ the poem, to ‘co-create’ its meaning. Where critique traditionally requires that readers resist enactive participation in the aim of objective analysis, the co-creative response – a response ‘in kind’ by imitation, versioning, or hommage – asks readers to receive and carry forward the enactive unfolding of a poem with a composition of their own. I assert that, by thus responding with – rather than to – poems, we might foster an attentive stance of active receptivity, thereby coming to understand poems as the enactive phenomena they are.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internationalhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Embargo Date: 2022-01-08
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 8th January 2022
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