“….For many of us, this can involve experiencing the characters in a novel as people we can interact with,” Fernyhough said. “One in seven of our respondents, for example, said they heard the voices of fictional characters as clearly as if there was someone in the room with them.”
When they asked readers to describe what was happening in detail, the researchers found people who described fictional characters remaining active in their minds after they had put the book down, and influencing their thoughts as they went about their daily business – a phenomenon Fernyhough called “experiential crossing”.
The term covers a wide range of experiences, from hearing a character’s voice to feeling one’s own thoughts shaped by a character’s ideas, sensibility or presence, he continued. “One respondent, for example, described ‘feeling enveloped’ by [Virginia Woolf’s] character Clarissa Dalloway – hearing her voice and imagining her response to particular situations, such as walking into a Starbucks. Sometimes the experience seemed to be triggered by entering a real-world setting similar to one in the novel; in other situations, it felt like seeing the world through a particular character’s eyes, and judging events as the character would.” …(more at the above link)
I tend to be more than a bit….eccentric, (using a gentle term. Eccentric: out of center.) Of course to be defined as such, someone would have to observe that ‘I’ directly, because my observable behavior is instead fairly normal – with some obsessive-compulsive exceptions, the somewhat pathetic expressions of which I tend to keep undercover or inhibited.
One thing I like to do in the summer mountains is to go out into the woods and gather wild strawberries. (Quite delicious stuff, those modest, red, fragrant gems of explosive, firework-like flavor, particular when fresh picked.) So, armed with a cane, small wire basket and a rather hideous pair of Birkenstocks, out I go from time to time. It would appear to someone watching me that I go alone, usually. But I don’t. I always take someone with me that an external observer could not see. I call him giovanni, or giovannino sometimes. The diminutive form, with the ‘nino’, is most likely mostly mistaken. I’ll explain later. Maybe.
Anyway, without going into his history, I can describe giovanni as a fairly fully developed sort of Pirandell-esque presence. You could call him a character, (as he is also that in some written chapter books.) But character implies containment or generation within a created, expressed form – at least in modern English usage, though an Elizabethan might have used the word differently. Anyway again.
The thing is, we sort of talk. That is, we have different roles and dialogue in a way as my legs pass through the trees. I let my thoughts, my internal talking, meander to silly things, mostly the modeling of stuff or tasting the beauty of the place, visual, odor, cries of distant birds and the like. He, instead, always tells me where the strawberries are, often in places that I would pass up or already have. I pause, maybe turn over some branches with the cane and sure enough, he’s almost always right: there’s nearly always some fruit where he nudged me to go look for it. Which of course leads me to ask: how is that possible, that a sort of character finds things of which I am not aware and that I would most likely not find without his nudging.
That, presumably, depends on how you define the ‘I”s: my I, and giovanni’s I. If giovanni’s I were merely a character fully manipulated by my extrinsically expressed I, then he would not be able to have the same sort of function and would represent less information. In such a case the ‘nino’ would be more completely appropriate. But he does serve a larger function, giovanni.
I suppose, if anyone has bothered to read until here and has even a modicum of the appreciation of ourselves as a symphony of network dialogues, that they’ve gotten where I’m going with this, at least partially: Differing motivational systems, extrinsic inhibition of intrinsic I expression, mirror-neuron turboed systems, flow of information, the stickiness of information and its tendency to form dynamically stable or recognizable systems even or perhaps particularly going down the flow from more to less, ecc…. giovanni keeps a part of my I occupied, an I that is maybe relatively more socially connected or motivated.
Still, he is an integrator, sensorially, and reminds me of a distant familiar pattern or odor or color, as we pass along, that means ‘strawberries there’. Meanwhile a different I, of which, at least, then I am more self-aware, is left to roam freely, to delight in other things until there are strawberries to pick. He becomes or is an institution in that way, though more alive than, say, a courthouse.
This sort of thing doesn’t happen in quite the same way with most people, I presume. But a similar thing happens nonetheless -pretty much all the time. We write poetry about it, or used to. You know, like ‘A host, of golden daffodils…when oft upon my couch I lay in vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon that inward eye that is the bliss of solitude,'(Wordsworth) The separation of our selves from our selves. Unfortunately, we tend to mistake our confabulations which separate reason from rationality with something more, mistaking our selves for…. other, our selves. Luckily, or unluckily, I know that I didn’t find those berries. I know giovanni did, so to speak. We call it metaphor. I merely knew what to do once he, that ‘I’ part of a larger ‘I’, told me.
We are living evermore in a world where many deny… strawberries. That is, if one I can’t see them, it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re actually there. Most men and women in charge of resources that belong to all of us don’t have or would ever admit a giovanni. Men-ini,(small-ish men,) reasoning irrationally that they their manipulations and models deal with more rather than the less…than other giovanni’s know they actually do.
Luckily the strawberries in the mountains grow wild…