This first symposium at the Institute, in the form of a think-tank conceived by David Miall and Willie van Peer, was devoted largely to understanding the role of emotions in literature, where emotions of the author, of the reader, and in the text itself, were considered. In poetry and some prose works, metrical and phonetic properties of a text enable foregrounding, and can also themselves have emotional effects. One formulation we reached was that literariness involves not only a recognition of something special by means of the language of a literary text, but that metrical and phonetic attributes are able to set up a frame that can act in counterpoint to the semantics of what is read. This kind of counterpoint can contribute to the destabilization of habitual expectations followed by a reformulation—a sequence that has the form of an emotion—which thus can add to the freshness and emotional qualities of what is read.
The group is working on a manifesto that expresses dissatisfaction with traditional, single-disciplinary, approaches to studying the arts, and proposing an interdisciplinary approach that includes empirical research, philosophy, and evolutionary considerations. In this new approach, the focus moves from interpretation of works of art to the experience of them. When the manifesto is produced we will post a link to it on this site.