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The Proust EffectThe Senses as Doorways to Lost Memories$
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Cretien van Campen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199685875

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199685875.001.0001

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How people colour their past

How people colour their past

Synaesthesia or how the senses colour present and past

(p.115) 12 How people colour their past
The Proust Effect

Cretien Van Campen

Julian Ross

Oxford University Press

This chapter contains interviews with a number of people with synesthesia, about the role that synaesthesia has played in their childhood memories. The accounts show how synaesthesia lends colour and shape to the past of synaesthetes. Their synaesthesia seems to crystallise the emotions in childhood memories. Their synaesthetic perceptions appear to organise the sensory fragments of the past and unify them. The joining in of the senses makes it easier for synaesthetes to identify with the events. This empathic experience of the past is sometimes so strong that the synaesthete has the feeling of being physically present in it. In some cases, the synaesthetic colours offer a tool for coping with dramatic events from the past. Interviewing people with synaesthesia also offers an insight into the creative process of composing the past as a collage. Whereas for most of us the ‘coloured past’ is something we can only describe figuratively, for synaesthetes it is literal and physically palpable.

Keywords:   synaesthesia, childhood memories, emotions, visual art, textile art, acting

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