Poetry and Aesthetic Pleasure

The Poetry Group is currently partnering with New York University as part of a Global Institute for Advanced Collaboration Initiative. This collaboration aims to broaden the current understanding of the aesthetic experience in the domains of art, music, and literature by examining participants’ behavioral and neurological responses to the respective stimuli. The Neuroaesthetics group at the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition lab is primarily concerned with examining the nature of aesthetic pleasure within poetry from a literary and neuroscientific perspective. The ongoing study, “Poetry and Aesthetic Pleasure,” assesses emotions, themes, and images evoked by sonnets read for assessment of personal moments of aesthetic pleasure or displeasure. Following the study, participants provided written and oral responses, which provide relevant data to the study of attention and memory, connecting this project with the lab’s first study of natural reading and attention. “Poetry and Aesthetic Pleasure” stands apart from other similar studies within the fields of cognitive humanities and cognitive neuroscience as it simultaneously considers quantitative metrics with more nuanced qualitative responses. With this rich set of qualitative and quantitative data, the Neuroaesthetics group has the potential to show what patterns within poetry are responsible for aesthetic pleasure responses. Ultimately, this data will mold a future version of the study that will utilize fMRI to investigate aesthetic pleasure responses from a neuroscientific perspective in conjunction with literary analysis.