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Literature and readers' empathy: A qualitative text manipulation study
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Culture and Aesthetics.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]
Reader response, empathy, literary fiction, foregrounding, qualitative methods
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-143950DOI: 10.1177/0963947017704729ISI: 000401911400005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-143950DiVA: diva2:1105938
Available from: 2017-06-05 Created: 2017-06-05 Last updated: 2017-06-26Bibliographically approved

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Kuzmičová, Anežka
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CiteExportLink to record
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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
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  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
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  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
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