Théodore Flournoy on synesthetic personification

Plassart, Anna and White, Rebekah C. (2017). Théodore Flournoy on synesthetic personification. Journal of the History of the Neurosciences: Basic and Clinical Perspectives, 26(1) pp. 1–14.



In 1893, Théodore Flournoy published a landmark book on synesthesia — Des phénomènes de synopsie [Of Synoptic Phenomena]. The book presented a pioneering chapter on synesthetic personification, including numerous striking case examples, and it is frequently cited by twenty-first-century researchers as providing some of the earliest examples of the phenomenon. Flournoy employed a broad definition of personification — the representation of stimuli as concrete and specific individuals or inanimate objects. This definition encompassed a more extensive set of phenomena than the definition used by researchers today and was illustrated by cases that would fall outside of contemporary subtypes of synesthetic personification. Yet, Flournoy’s seminal work remains unavailable in English, and the extent of the phenomenon that he described has not been discussed in the contemporary literature. We provide an unabridged translation of Flournoy’s chapter “Des personnifications” [“Of Personifications”].

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