Droodles and cognitive poetics: Contribution to an aesthetics of disorientation

Reuven Tsur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is a contribution to the aesthetics of disorientation. It conceives of aesthetic effects such as the effects of adaptation and other cognitive mechanisms turned to an aesthetic end. The “emotional disorientation” associated with the grotesque and related phenomena is hypothesized to be the unique conscious quality of consciousness turning upon itself to check whether cognitive and adaptive mechanisms are appropriately tuned in an environment that seems to evade handling by other adaptation mechanisms. This may explain Thomson's (1972) observation, “that the grotesque mode in art and literature tends to be prevalent in societies and eras marked by strife, radical change or disorientation. ” It is claimed here that droodles at their best aren't just witty riddles in the visual mode; they display a “shocking” quality characteristic of the grotesque, which is achieved through the drastic disruption of the working of cognitive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994


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