The Senses

“By his profession, a serious fiction writer is a vendor of the sensuous particulars of life, a perceiver and handler of things. His most valuable tools are his sense and his memory; what happens in his mind is primarily in pictures.”

–Wallace Stegner, On Teaching and Writing Fiction

 Stegner, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, argues that a writer is a “vendor” of the senses, the primary gateway through which our brains experience the world. When our bodies come into contact with the environment, electrochemical waves relay messages from sensory sites to the brain along neuronal pathways. By appealing to the senses, writers can export  complex images and ideas to their readers.

In this section, three authors discuss the ways particular literary texts “handle” the senses. Nishant Misra examines the relationship between visual perception and consciousness in A Clockwork Orange (focusing on the Ludovico technique) in “Distorting Consciousness: A Clockwork Orange.” In “Qualia in Romantic Poetry,” Debra Stein analyzes the ways William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge employ what philosophers call qualia–the subjective experience of a perception–to make reading poetry a sensory experience for reader. In “Synesthesia in ”The Yellow Wallpaper,” Robert Rosengarten analyzes the role synesthesia plays in the representation of one woman’s consciousness in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s landmark feminist short story.



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