Kinesthesia is used to make a scene feel more real and easier to visualize. It can refer to visible movements like walking, jumping, or running, but it can also be used to depict things like heartbeats and breathing.
Types of Kinesthesia
- Touch: involves the experience of touching something—for example, a depiction of someone combing their hair with their fingers or petting an animal.
- Movement: physical movement that involves an activity. For example, jumping in the ocean or climbing a tree.
- Temperature: how the character is interpreting the weather or atmosphere. For example, the coolness of water soaking someone’s shoes or the feeling of snow on someone’s face.
- Feelings: things one can’t see but can feel inside their body—sadness, happiness, calm, etc.
Definition of Kinesthesia
Kinesthesia is a type of imagery. It’s used when a writer wants to convey a particular experience, one that the reader should be able to visualize through their text. Imagery is one of the most important literary devices a writer can make use of. Without it, readers will be left unaffected by the text. It’s needed so that one can put themselves in the place of the character and feel what they feel. In the case of kinesthesia, this might be the feeling of the sun on their skin, the effort of lifting heavy boxes, or the emotional struggle of engaging in an angry fight with one’s loved ones.
Examples of Kinesthesia in Literature
Meeting at Night by Robert Browning
Browning’s ‘Meeting at Night’ is one of his best and most kinesthetic poems. was originally featured in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, which was published in 1845. Upon its initial publication, it was divided into two sections, one that focused on “day” and another that focused on “night.” In this piece, the poet depicts a beautiful, movement-filled landscape. Here are a few lines from the text:
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!
In this stanza, the poet uses words like “joys and fears,” “two hearts beating each to each,” “blue spurt,” “quick sharp scratch,” and “warm sea-scented beach.” These are all kinaesthetic in nature and allow the reader powerful insight into the landscape and the speaker’s experience.
Explore Robert Browning’s poetry.
‘Dover Beach’ is likely Arnold’s best-known poem. It was published in 1867 and is made up of four stanzas. It laments the loss of Christian faith in England during the 1800s as science became more important. In the first lines, the poet describes the calm of the English Channel. Here are a few lines from that stanza:
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Arnold uses words like “long line of spray,” “moon-blanched land,” “grating roar,” “fling,” and “tremulous cadence” in order to depict the scene. His skillful use of imagery should mean that readers successfully feel as though they, too, are standing on the seashore.
Read more Matthew Arnold poems.
Also known as ‘Daffodils,’ this poem uses kinesthesia several times. This piece is well-regarded for its use of personification as well and is one of the most popular in the English language. Here are a few lines that demonstrate both:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host, of golden daffodils
Besides the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way
This piece was inspired by the poet’s love for nature and how inspiring he found it. He uses words like “twinkle,” “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze,” “wandered,” and “floats” to convey the specific imagery he was interested in.
It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free by William Wordsworthv
In this less-commingle analyzed Wordsworth poem, the poet also demonstrates his skill with imagery. Consider these lines from the beginning of the poem as examples of kinesthesia:
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
He uses words like “calm and free,” as well as “quiet as a Nun,” and “Breathless” to depict the feeling of the evening.
Read more William Wordsworth poems.
Why Do Writers Use Kinesthesia?
Writers use kinesthesia when they want to convey movement in their imagery. It’s an important literary device in that it allows the writer, whether they’re writing a poem, play, short story, novel, or other work, to take the reader out of their world and into a new one. Such is the case with the examples above, as those three poets sought to depict natural scenes with kinesthetic imagery. One should feel the movements and feelings these writers tried to depict. Imagery is one of the main reasons why some poems are far more successful and emotionally effective than others.
Related Literary Terms
- Imagery: refers to the elements of a poem that engage a reader’s senses. These are the important sights, sounds, feelings, and smells.
- Metaphor: used to describe an object, person, situation, or action in a way that helps a reader understand it without using “like” or “as.”
- Extended Metaphor: a literary term that refers to a long metaphorical comparison that can last an entire poem.
- Simile: a comparison between two, unlike things that uses the words “like” or “as.”
- Juxtaposition: a literary technique that places two unlike things next to one another.
- Antithesis: occurs when two contrasting ideas are put together to achieve the desired outcome.
- Oxymoron: a kind of figurative language in which two contrasting things are connected together.