This article explores the common ground and poetic elements for cross-cultural reading of literary works. As a typical literary form, poetry amply contains the characteristics of literary works and stimulates the imagination of the readers. To investigate the reading experience with poetry, an empirical study on the cross-cultural poetry reading has been conducted and carried out in China and Germany, respectively. The study adopts a psychological approach to evaluate readers' mental reaction to and involvement in classical Chinese and German poems, and combines these with the assessment of quantitative monitoring of brain function. The results from the different measurements indicate that the aesthetic imagination can trigger more aesthetic enjoyment and significantly reduce anxiety. In line with literary theories and evolutionary psychology, these empirical findings, combined with poetic analyses, indicate that the key to immediate involvement in a cross-cultural poetry reading might lie in the description, which is closely connected to the embodied experience of the readers. The results from the interdisciplinary study provide further evidence that supports the assumption of the role of the embodied mind in cross-cultural literary reading, confirming and advancing classic literary theories. These findings open new perspectives for future studies on cross-cultural poetic reading and literary imagination.
Interdisciplinary Study on Cross-Cultural Poetry Reading
yehong zhang is a tenured associate professor and Director of the Literature and Cognition Lab in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Tsinghua University, Beijing. She specializes in cognitive literary studies, cross-cultural empirical literary studies, German literature, and contemporary literary theories. Zhang studied at Peking University, University of Munich, University of California, Berkeley, and received her Ph.D. at the University of Göttingen. She is the author of the book Erzählung, Kognition und Kultur (Narrative, Cognition and Culture) (Mentis, 2011) and was awarded the Humboldt research fellowship.
Yehong Zhang; Interdisciplinary Study on Cross-Cultural Poetry Reading. Comparative Literature Studies 15 December 2017; 54 (4): 850–868. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.54.4.0850
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