Embodied ekphrasis of experience: Bodily rhetoric in mediating affect in interaction.

Hanna Rautajoki, Jarkko Toikkanen, Pirkko Liisa Raudaskoski

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The article investigates the rhetorical means of mediating affective experience in occasioned storytelling. The completion of this article has been supported by The Emil Aaltonen Foundation and The Academy of Finland project (285144) The Literary in Life and The Academy of Finland project (326645) European Solidarities in Turmoil. We are interested in the forms and aspects of bodily action in signifying and communicating a "para-factual experience"that was triggered by a real-life incident, but in fact only took place in a person's imagination. We explore the case of a TV interview in which an American living in Finland narrates a personal, disturbing experience related to the news about 9/11. The story presents a visual scenario of the teller's affective reaction towards two Muslim women in a grocery store. What is interesting in the story are its involuntary dimensions: the scenario portrays a picture of the teller that he finds unrecognizable and detached from his sense of self as a person. Even if the act was never actually realized, to the teller it felt real and compelling, as is manifest in the way he translates the scenario into a bodily performance. The teller not only uses his body to tell the story but momentarily turns the surrounding setting into a scene in the storyworld in which he plays the unidentified me. We call this physical performance of the imagined scene the embodied ekphrasis of experience. In Semiotica, the rhetorical device of ekphrasis has appeared before (see Frosh 2003; Hopkins 2015; Nesselroth 2016; Sarapik 2009) from such literary and linguistic perspectives, as well as through the lens of media research and cultural studies, to which our application will add from the viewpoint of ethnomethodology and the social sciences. Deploying research on multimodal interaction and intermediality, our empirical analysis explicates how the teller's body, and not just words, build action, convey affective meaning, and resemiotize and mobilize a physical enactment of the past hypothetical scene.

TidsskriftSemiotica Online
Udgave nummer235
Sider (fra-til)91-111
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - 12 okt. 2020


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