Aesthetic Engagement During Moments of Suffering
  • ISSN 2210-4372
  • E-ISSN: 2210-4380
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Two studies of literary reading described the effects of loss, trauma, and traumatic loss on moments of disclosure during expressive engagement with the text. Study 1 compared readers who had experienced recent loss, recent trauma or neither recent loss nor trauma. Study 2 extended this paradigm to include traumatic loss. Dependent variables included an index of sublime disquietude, specifically, the interactive combination of perceived discord, self-perceptual depth, and inexpressible realizations. Across both studies, (1) a combination of traumatic distress and separation distress predicted sublime disquietude; (2) dissociation (depersonalization, amnesia) predicted sublime disquietude; and (3) distress in response to loss, trauma, or traumatic loss motivated reading at the limits of expressibility. This pattern of results is described in relation to Heidegger’s (1962) characterization of how, within being-toward-death, an uncanny not-at-homeness (Unheimlichkeit) is the context within which an experiential process provides an unsettling and yet elevating disclosure of finitude.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): depersonalization; dissociation; literary reading; loss; sublime feeling; trauma
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