Touching Words & Images
Rensselaer professor Ellen Esrock researches the effect that our sense of touch, temperature, body position, and pain has on our perceptions of visual art and literature. In this talk, she explores how spectators and readers use their own body to reshape the boundary between themselves and an imagined fictional world. This softening of boundaries permits readers and viewers to immerse themselves in worlds outside of their own and to locate these worlds within the self. Touch, as part of the somatosensory system, functions along with the viscerosensory and motor systems to deepen our emotions and cognitions of these blended realities.
Ellen Esrock is an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Esrock integrates humanistic and cognitive/neuropsychological approaches to the bodily experiences of viewing art and reading literature. Select publications include The Reader’s Eye: Visual Imaging as Reader Response (1994); “Embodying Art: The Spectator and the Inner Body,” Poetics Today (2010); “Embodying Literature,” Journal of Consciousness Studies (2004); and “Touching Art: Intimacy, Embodiment, and the Somatosensory System,” Consciousness and Emotion (2001). She holds a PhD in comparative literature from New York University and a BA in philosophy from Washington University St. Louis.