Thoughtlines podcast episode 10: Charlotte Lee – We are what we read

21 October 2021


Thoughtlines:  academic thinking outside the box


Episode 10: Charlotte Lee – We are what we read

In this episode we discover how words move us. Literally.

Dr Charlotte Lee is a Senior Lecturer in German at the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge, but just lately she’s stepped beyond her academic boundaries to ask everyone from neuroscientists, to dancers, to tiny children, more about the transporting power of poetry.

Working in three languages, and across disciplines, her current research tries to discover how writers make us physically feel things that we only read about, and how our brain dances along to textual rhythms even when our bodies remain sitting still in a library chair.

From the Ancient Greeks to nursery rhymes to hip hop, literature is always moving to the beat. But we’re only just discovering where it could take us.

Thoughtlines is presented by broadcast journalist Catherine Galloway and produced by Carl Homer of Cambridge TV.


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Learn more:

Find out more about the New Hall Art Collection, the location for this episode.

The 'Watching Dance' project is an excellent resource for understanding principles such as kinesis and kinaesthetic empathy as discussed in this episode.

'Dance of the Muses' offers danced reconstructions of Ancient Greek choral poetry.

At Cambridge, the Baby Rhythm Project of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education is elucidating the central role of rhythm in language acquisition in babies.

Charlotte Lee's 2017 article 'Movement and embodiment in Klopstock and Goethe' explores the relationship between poetry and movement. 

Her first book, also discussed in this episode, is a study of Goethe's last works and can be found here.