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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"

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