Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Ryan Claycomb

Committee Co-Chair

Lara Farina

Committee Member

Kirk Hazen

Committee Member

Vera Tobin

Committee Member

Lisa Weihman


This project brings together methodologies from sensory and cognitive approaches to literature to posit that Conceptual Metaphors of Readings mediate the experience of readers with fiction and provide an organizing framework for scholars and readers alike to consider the diverse sensory and cognitive phenomena that are used to describe the experience of reading. These conceptual metaphors are culturally and historically developed and can be used in combination with each other by authors to achieve desired effects on readers; however, there are clear patterns in metaphor blends. I demonstrate the robustness of this framework by analyzing metafictional readers, scenes of reading, and reader/writer relationships within nine metafictional novels of the modern, postmodern, and contemporary periods. In particular, I locate the figure of the metafictional reader in works of fiction as a cipher through which the actual reader presses and exerts herself and her reading practices in configuring her own experience of a text. Due to the sophisticated interplay of convention and novelty at work, the metafictional reader should be understood as an embodied metaphor of reading in which the author explores, with the actual reader in tow, an original conception of reading through a familiar configuration: the reading self. Although many metaphors of reading exist and have existed throughout literary history, in this project, I examine six that are especially relevant in contemporary works: (1) reading as an encounter with sensory bodies, (2) reading as journey, (3) reading as sexual intercourse, (4) reading as contact with the past, (5) reading as performance, and (6) reading as an encounter with nature. I organize these readings and combinations of metaphors according to four popularly touted abstract understandings of why readers read: (1) Reading as Connection, (2) Reading as Challenge, (3) Reading as Pursuit, and (4) Reading as Escape.