Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Synaesthesia in Literature focuses on a particular facet of the broad set of possibilities its title may suggest: portrayals of fictional characters with neurological synesthesia in selected 20th and 21st century English-language works. These works cover a range of genres: mystery, comedy, drama, graphic novel, "literary" fiction. I will suggest that depictions of synaesthesia fall into five categories: Synaesthesia as Romantic Ideal, as Pathology, as Romantic Pathology, as Emotional Completeness, and as Accepted Anomaly. These different categories show tendencies to either disparage or glorify the perceptions of synaesthetes. I trace these tendencies back to descriptions of synaesthesia in 19th century seminal European works (written during a very fertile period of research into auditioncolorée), including Arthur Rimbaud's "Letter of a Seer", J-K Huysman's Against Nature, and Max Nordau's Degeneration, which either endorse or eschew notions of transcendence. I connect the increased number of contemporary fictional works with synaesthete-characters in late 20th and early 21st centuries with increased scientific research into synesthesia. As information about neurological synaesthesia filtered into the mainstream, it stirred the imaginations of writers of fiction. I conclude that synaesthesia has come to take on meanings beyond the mere fact of synaesthetic percepts, and describe what research is still needed, particularly regarding fictional works in languages other than English.

Keywords: synaesthesia and fiction, synesthesia and literary depictions, cross-sensory metaphor, Arthur Rimbaud "Voyelles", Charles Baudelaire "Correspondances", Max Nordau, J-K Huysmans "Against Nature", Max Nordau, TJ Parker "The Fallen", Kathryn Vaz "Saudade"

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.