So this is the great advantage of Actor stance: facilitating immersion.Immersion. What is it, and what it is good for? Immersion apparently is a mental state in which we identify ourselves with a character; but identify outselves with that character in a very specific way, namely, we achieve for a moment something that approaches forgetfulness about the difference between ourselves and the character. When I say: "I am like Hamlet, for I too think incessantly about my interior", I am identifying myself with Hamlet, but I am not immersed. But when I read the play and feel rage at the king's betrayal and want to revenge myself on him, and feel the urge to make him drink from the poisoned chalice--then I am immersed.
I love Hamlet the play, and am in awe of Hamlet the character. But when I read it, I am not in the mental state which I just described. I don't identify myself with any of the characters in this strong way; I don't have the feeling that I am present at the scene; I have no wish to act in it. I may be sad when Hamlet dies, but that is not an emotion Hamlet seems to feel at that point. I am very aware that I am reading a play, and I am enjoying the act of reading - which is my act, not that of a character in the play. I pause to reread some of the lines, speaking them out loud. I remember what Harold Bloom or some other critic wrote about Hamlet; I am thinking about my own interpretations. There is always, between me and the fiction, a distance; and it seems to me that this distance is necessary for good reading. No character within Hamlet can have an interpretation of the play (except perhaps Hamlet, who we feel knows that he is in a play of which he is in some sense the author - but never mind); I can, and must.
To take another example, which is even clearer: the stories of Borges. Is it possible to immerse oneself into the fiction of Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, or that of the Library of Babel, or that of Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote? Most certainly not; all these fictions were written, it seems, with the express purpose of making immersion impossible. And yet Borges is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of the previous century. Are we immersed in Ulysses, or are we rather all the time self-consciously reading literature and reacting to what we read as literature?
Is immersion not a danger to mature and thoughtful reading?
Make no mistake, I am not trying to set up a dichotomy between reading for your enjoyment and reading for academic purposes. True reading is reading in which we use all of ourselves; this includes our empathy and emotion, but not to the exclusion of everything else. I thoroughly enjoy reading Hamlet; I laugh at the jokes and weep when the sweet prince dies; and at the same time I am thinking incessantly about the meaning and structure of the play; I am savouring the beauty of the verse; I am obsessing over the question what Hamlet feels and thinks when he says "The readiness is all. ... Let be."; and so on. This seems to me the fullest way to enjoy Hamlet. Putting yourself so much in Hamlet's shoes that you can no longer at the same time enjoy the play on all the other levels will not only decrease your enjoyment, it will also make it (paradoxically) quite impossible to understand the prince himself.
If the Actor Stance facilitates immersion, this is its great disadvantage, for immersion - as I understand it - is but a shallow way of reading. My examples were from static fiction, but why would interactive fiction be different in this respect?
Perhaps I do not understand immersion; or perhaps I judge it wrongly. Please join me in discussing it, here or at some other place.
My kindest regards,