Synesthesia

Synesthesia, according to M.H. Abrams in A Glossary of Literary Terms, is a description of “one kind of sensation in terms of another; color is attributed to sounds, odor to colors, sound to odors, and so on.”  Here is an example of synesthesia from Bruno Schulz’s Street of the Crocodiles:  “Adela would plunge the rooms into semidarkness by drawing down the linen blinds.  All colors immediately fell an octave lower [my italics]; the room filled with shadows, as if it had sunk to the bottom of the sea and the light was reflected in mirrors of green water.” Schulz describes a change in color by means of a musical term.  Writers consciously and unconsciously employ this peculiar method to convey the irreducible complexity of life onto the page.  Diane Ackerman (in A Natural History of the Senses) feels we are born with this wonderful “intermingling” of senses:  “A creamy blur of succulent blue sounds smells like week-old strawberries dropped into a tin sieve as mother approaches in a halo of color, chatter, and perfume like thick golden butterscotch.  Newborns ride on intermingling waves of sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.”  Use synesthesia in a short scene—surreptitiously, without drawing too much attention to it—to convey to your reader an important understanding of some ineffable sensory experience.  Use “sight, sound, touch, taste, and, especially, smell.”  600 words.

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Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  

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