Elusive qualities in poetry, receptivity, and neural correlates

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Arnheim’s terms “actively organizing mind” and “passively receiving mind” can usefully be applied in practical criticism to suggest the significance of poetic structures as described by more concrete terms. But it is not quite clear what exactly they refer to. This chapter explores how the latter term can be illuminating in close readings of poems by Verlaine. Neuropsychological findings proposed in the last section fill those terms with more solid meaning. When you experience sensory stimuli, certain areas in the secondary somatosensory cortex light up. When you perceive yourself as the voluntary agent causing the sensations, this activity is suppressed. This may account for the observation that the actively organizing mind is less sensitive to elusive sensations in poetry than a passive attitude. This chapter explores the linguistic means—syntactic, semantic, and phonetic—by which Verlaine’s texts manipulate the fictional speaker and/or the flesh-and-blood reader into a passive stance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExpressive Minds and Artistic Creations
Subtitle of host publicationStudies in Cognitive Poetics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780190457747
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Actively organizing mind
  • Classicist vs. Romantic vs. Symbolist
  • Neuropsychological explanation
  • Passively receiving mind
  • Verlaine


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