Narrative & the Brain: Using Fiction & Dance to Cope with Crisis

dc.contributorChristensen, Ann C.
dc.contributorLong, Steven
dc.contributorContreras-Vidal, Jose Luis
dc.contributor.authorOrdóñez Ferrer, Verónica S.
dc.description.abstractThe purpose of this thesis is to explore how written and oral narrative can be paired with the embodied practice of dance to cope with times of crisis and more clearly transmit one’s trauma narrative. I begin by analyzing how engaging fictional texts can create ideal conditions for aesthetic reading and flow state, creating optimal reader engagement. I break down the rhetorical devices and figurative language of one of the bestselling fictional works in the world, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, explaining how its literary devices manifest themselves on a neurological level. I then draw a comparison between how the brain pieces together the sensory details within a fiction text and how it processes motor imagery when viewing a complex physical activity like dance. Based on this comparison, I hypothesize that a group of brain cells called mirror neurons may play an integral role in successfully pairing written and oral literature and the embodied practice of dance. My second section places my hypothesis within the context of trauma therapy, in which I highlight the existing holes in traditional psychological practices and make a case for embodied narrative as a way to more clearly transmit one’s trauma narrative. Although one’s trauma narrative is the telling of a non-fiction experience, I propose that pairing an oral or written version of said narrative with the embodied practice of dance can mimic the abstraction of fictional work and heighten audience reception. I begin by introducing the existing gaps in traditional trauma therapies through the example of the contemporary fiction novel Room by Emma Donoghue, highlighting the risks of social abjection and misunderstanding that many trauma victims feel when sharing their experiences with others. Turning again to the neurological processes of how the brain processes narrative devices, I put forth that dance and oral or written narrative used together create a deep connection between the languages of the mind and body. This connection can heighten audiences’ affective and cognitive empathies, which can facilitate a more accurate and accepting understanding of a person’s trauma. Lastly, I return to the concept of flow state, characterized by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi as a human cognitive state arising from participation in a pleasurable, autotelic or intrinsically-motivated activity, to share how aesthetic reading of fiction literature can have further applications and benefits on reading competence. Taking a look at the fallacies in Accelerated Reader programs (reading comprehension programs that aim to quantify student reading competence through calculations and formulas rather than engagement and enthusiasm toward literature) in American public schools, I offer that teaching children from a young age to read fiction for pleasure will motivate students to seek increasingly challenging and complex literature, thus developing strong reading habits from an early age. In this way too, reading fiction literature can act as a gateway to lifelong engagement in other self-reinforcing and self-rewarding activities.
dc.description.departmentEnglish, Department of
dc.description.departmentHonors College
dc.relation.ispartofSenior Honors Theses
dc.rightsThe author of this work is the copyright owner. UH Libraries and the Texas Digital Library have their permission to store and provide access to this work. Further transmission, reproduction, or presentation of this work is prohibited except with permission of the author(s).
dc.subjectTrauma studies
dc.subjectFlow state
dc.subjectHarry Potter
dc.titleNarrative & the Brain: Using Fiction & Dance to Cope with Crisis
dc.typeHonors Thesis
dc.type.dcmiText of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences of Arts


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