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Literature and readers' empathy: A qualitative text manipulation study
Stockholm University.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9309-2343
2017 (English)In: Language and Literature, ISSN 0963-9470, E-ISSN 1461-7293, Vol. 26, no 2, 137-152 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The alleged crisis of the humanities is currently fueling renewed interest in the affective benefits of literary reading. Several quantitative studies have shown a positive correlation between literary reading and empathy. However, the literary nature of the stimuli used in these studies has not been defined at a more detailed, stylistic level. In order to explore the stylistic underpinnings of the hypothesized link between literariness and empathy, we conducted a qualitative experiment in which the degree of stylistic foregrounding was manipulated. Subjects (N = 37) read versions of Katherine Mansfield’s “The Fly,” a short story rich in foregrounding, while marking striking and evocative passages of their choosing. Afterwards, they were asked to select three markings and elaborate on their experiences in writing. One group read the original story, while the other read a ‘non-literary’ version, produced by an established author of suspense fiction for young adults, where stylistic foregrounding was reduced. We found that the non-literary version elicited significantly more (p < 0.01) explicitly empathic responses than the original story. This finding stands in contradiction to widely accepted assumptions in recent research, but can be assimilated in alternative models of literariness and affect in literary reading. We present an analysis of the data with a view to offering more than one interpretation of the observed effects of stylistic foregrounding.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 26, no 2, 137-152 p.
Keyword [en]
literature, empathy, reading, qualitative methods, stylistics
National Category
Humanities and the Arts Psychology
Research subject
Literature; Aesthetics; Psychology; Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-143950DOI: 10.1177/0963947017704729OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-143950DiVA: diva2:1105938
Available from: 2017-06-05 Created: 2017-06-05 Last updated: 2017-06-05

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Publisher's full texthttp://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0963947017704729

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Kuzmičová, Anežka
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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
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