Immersion Lost and Gained

Invited contribution to the conference Antiquity and Immersivity, organised by Dr. Emma Cole (University of Bristol).

Online, 8-30 March 2021. Tickets available via Eventbrite.

Immersion Lost and Gained: The Ancient Roots of a Contemporary Concern
This paper sketches out some speculative thoughts on the differences between narratological, mediated forms of immersion on the one hand, and the phenomenological prioritisation of being-in-place on the other. Recognising that there is no clear line between these different modalities of immersion in practice, the paper traces the roots of their ontological separation to the ancient world, where new technologies – the alphabet, writing – helped to conjure immersive worlds beyond corporeal experience. Drawing on the work of cultural ecologist and philosopher David Abram, I argue that the possibility of displaced immersion encouraged a rupture between human and more-than-human worlds that many contemporary forms of immersive experience perpetuate, even when they explicitly seek to bridge this divide. The paper concludes with a discussion of some of the emerging modes of immersive enchantment that may help to overcome this rupture.