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

Hanna Rautajoki, Jarkko Toikkanen, Pirkko Raudaskoski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The article investigates the rhetorical means of mediating affective experience in occasioned storytelling. 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.2 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-111
Issue number235
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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