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Forum Antiquum Lecture Spring 2022: 'You can fly! The interplay between text and reader in narrative comprehension'

Thursday 21 April 2022
Forum Antiquum Lectures Spring 2022
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius Room

In the process of narrative comprehension readers anchor new information in the story to what they already know. The mechanism under investigation in my Anchoring Innovation project is the retrieval and use of relevant background by a reader, helped by features in the text. In my Forum Antiquum lecture, I will illustrate this project by means of several flying scenes from Vergil’s Aeneid.

Reading is, for most of us, an uplifting activity. In highly engaging, immersive flying scenes this is almost literally the case: these seem to give us, firmly settled on our couch or chair, a feeling of flying ourselves. How does this work? What do you need in a reader and a text in order to get a flying sensation?

I will present passages from the Aeneid to illustrate the types of background that readers have. They have knowledge of cultural setting(s), they have bodies, they can move these bodies and they can look things up. Together these form the 4 E’s of ‘4E cognition’. That is, the cognition and affect of readers are Embedded, Embodied, Enacted and Extended. I will briefly discuss how texts can tap into these types of background and will then focus on how this is done in flying scenes. Human beings obviously have no memory of flying themselves, so how can elements in a text help them retrieve relevant background to imagine what it is like to fly?

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