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Connecting with the world: poetic synaesthesia, sensory metaphors and empathy

  • Laure-Hélène Anthony-Gerroldt EMAIL logo


Many poems rely on sensory lexis and metaphors, making them amenable to the readerly experience of sensory overlap or fusion that characterizes synaesthesia. Such sensory language can be considered a way to connect with our emotions and bodies, since our bodily experiences directly influence and control many of our other experiences. Synaesthetic metaphors can thus be related to empathy via embodiment, especially when empathy is understood as playing a part in the reader’s or the spectator’s sensory engagement with works of art. In this article, I explore how empathy can derive from our sensory experience of a few poems that may allow embodied reading experiences. Analyzing sensory language in poems by Dadaist Hugo Ball, Romantics John Keats and Wilfred Owen, and Modernist H.D., I contend that loading poetry with sensations could be construed as an attempt to bridge the gap(s) between the body and the mind by stimulating readers’ empathic response.

Corresponding author: Laure-Hélène Anthony-Gerroldt, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2023-10-06
Published in Print: 2023-10-26

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