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Ellen Esrock

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Touching Art: Intimacy, Embodiment, and the Somatosensory System


Ellen Esrock is an Associate Professor of Literature at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Professor Esrock received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University and a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis. Her publications include The Reader's Eye: Visual Imaging as Reader Response (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994) and a translation of Umberto Eco's The Aesthetics of Chaosmos: The Poetics of James Joyce (Harvard University Press, 1989.) Drawing on contemporary neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Professor Esrock has focused her research on the role of mental images, particularly visual and somatosensory, in our experience of visual art and literature. For the 2003-4 Fellowship year at the Italian Academy she will explore a process by which viewers can use their somatosensory systems to shift their sense of bodily boundaries in order to bring themselves into more intimate relationships with art objects.