The Felt Experience of Reading: From Realist Fiction to Immersive Technologies (Part I)


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This is episode #18 of the podcast and it’s Thursday, the 26th of May, 2022.
Today, I interviewed Dr. Elaine Auyoung, Donald V. Hawkins Professor and Associate Professor of English at the University of Minnesota, and Affiliate Faculty of the Center for Cognitive Sciences. She is the author of “When Fiction Feels Real: Representation and the Reading Mind”, recently released in paperback from Oxford University Press. In addition to the project on “Unselfing” described on her faculty webpage, Elaine is also working on a book project on “Becoming Sensitive,” which uses cognitive research on expertise and perceptual learning to show how training in the arts and humanities prepares learners to notice and respond to information in ways that are important for future problem solving but have been difficult to assess.
We had an amazing time covering many important topics from Elaine’s book, but the episode went over the usual podcast duration, so I’ve decided to split it into two parts. We started with the definition of Reality Novels and ways to describe the experience of reading. For Tolstoy, for instance, readers’ effort to comprehend the characters’ sensations and emotions as fully as possible is an aesthetic and ethical end in itself. However, the way in which such writers convey the felt experience of the fictional worlds has remained relatively underexplored.
We then looked into the extent to which literary experience depends on the the knowledge and abilities that readers bring to a text, one one hand, and how much it relies on the set of strategies employed by the skillful writer, on the other hand. Another point we addressed was the importance of the translation process in maintaining the level of immersive experience of reading.
In Part II, we talked about how to bridge the gap between the readers’ experience and the experience of firsthand perception — I.e., how well can we know what we don’t experience directly? As always, we concluded with a discussion technologies like e-books and multimedia experiences.
This is Part I of the episode.

Show Notes:
- what is realist fiction?
- what is the experience of reading?
- how do we get from words on a page to the reader’s immersive experience of the story
- the knowledge and abilities that readers have vs.the set of strategies employed by the skillful writer
- how cognitively taxing is reading a novel?
- the importance of the sensory properties of a language that inevitably get lost in translation

Link to Dr. Auyoung's book (paperback edition) :

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