In real life we each experience the world separately through our individual bodies, which necessitates what Kenneth Burke calls "identification." In this paper, I assert that as artistic media have structured our aesthetic experience in a way that increasingly resembles our lived, embodied experiences, our identification with fictional characters requires less imaginative effort and is more automatic and powerful. I will show this by analyzing how we inhabit characters through sensory engagement, point of view, and narrative form in literature, film, and video games (specifically action/adventure games, RPGs, and MMORPGs). I will then build off of Burke's foundational theory to articulate a clearly defined spectrum of identification as it occurs in art, emphasizing that identification through video games is the most immediate and powerful. To conclude, I'll consider how video games—a young and stigmatized art form—can formulate our identities and increase our ability to identify with others in real life, where we cannot inhabit each other's bodies.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Smith, Charlotte Palfreyman, "Identification Through Inhabitation in Literature, Film, and Video Games" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 3257.
Kenneth Burke, identification, literature, film, video games, RPGs, MMORPGs, identity, agency, body, senses, point of view, narrative