Temabeskrivelse høst 2019
Literary Studies: Theory and Science
The scientific study of literature is an emerging field that is grounded in literary theory. But what are the relations between literature and science? To what extent can literature be ‘scientific’? How can we study the impact of literature to our lives from an empirical perspective? To answer these questions, the course will offer a survey of the theories that have been contributing for a scientific approach to literature.
Module 1 offers a reflection on the understandings of literature before the advent of literary theory, rooted in the Romantic movement, and moves into early 20th century with the contributions of formalist theorists and their notion of literariness.
Module 2 focuses on reader response theories, showing how they bring readers to the limelight, although still on a purely theoretical framework.
Module 3 shows how a scientific study of literature emerged with the advent of the cognitive turn in the 21st century. The theories in Modules 1 and 2 are discussed by focusing on the actual reader as processor of meaning. It is assumed that literariness involves the interaction of real readers with texts, combining verbal, emotional and cognitive elements that may account for the distinctiveness of the literary experience. Thus, the concept of literariness is revisited and reshaped by evidence-based observations.
Module 4 offers a hands-on experience into what it takes to develop an empirical study of literature. Students participate in a workshop where they design their own empirical project grounded on the literary theory studied. Presentations will follow.
In addition to critical and historical readings, we will be guided by Catherine Morland from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and will consider the extent to which empirical approaches to literature may provide insights into her reading experiences. In this process, we will discuss the meaning and the function of literature.
Upon completing this course, students will:
- Acquire knowledge of the organic development of theories of literature concerned with systematization
- Develop critical and empirical insights about the relevance of literature to their lives and how literature impacts the reader
- Design empirical projects based on meaningful questions about literary reading