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Literature Reference

The Psychology and Sociology of Literature: In Honor of Elrud Ibsch edited by Elrud Ibsch, Dick H. Schram, Gerard Steen (Utrecht Publications in General and Comparative Literature, V. 35: John Benjamins Publishing Company) is a collection of 25 chapters on literature by some of the leading psychologists, sociologists, and literary scholars in the field of the empirical study of literature. Contributors include Ziva Ben‑Porat, Gerry Cupchik, Art Graesser, Rachel Giora, Norbert Groeben, Colin Martindale, David Miall, Willie van Peer, Kees van Rees, Siegfried Schmidt, Hugo Verdaasdonk, and Rolf Zwaan. Topics include literature and the reading process; the role of poetic language, metaphor, and irony; cathartic and Freudian effects; literature and creativity; the career of the literary author; literature and culture; literature and multicultural society, literature and the mass media; literature and the internet; and literature and history. An introduction by the editors situates the empirical study of literature within an academic context. The chapters are all invited and refereed contributions, collected to honor the scholarship and retirement of professor Elrud lbsch, of the Free University of Amsterdam. Together they represent the state of the art in the empirical study of literature, a movement in literary studies which aims to produce reliable and valid scientific knowledge about literature as a means of verbal communication in its cultural context. Elrud`lbsch was one of the pioneers in Europe to promote this approach to literature some 25 years ago, and this volume takes stock of what has happened since. The Psychology and Sociology of Literature presents an invaluable overview of the results, promises, gaps, and needs of the empirical study of literature. It addresses social scientists as well as scholars in the humanities who are interested in literature as discourse.

Editor summary: The title of this book, The Psychology and Sociology of Literature, is a reflection of the major concerns of what is more generally known as the empirical study of literature (Ibsch et al. 1991; Janssen and Van Dijk 1998; Kreuz and MacNealy 1996; Rusch 1995; Totosy de Zepetnek and Sywenky 1997). Psychology and sociology are the two social sciences that have provided theories and methods for a new and empirical approach to the study of literature which has developed over the past twenty‑five years, mainly between Europe, Israel, the United States, and Canada. Most of this research has been carried out by members of the international association for the empirical study of literature, called IGEL, by the German acronym for "Internationale Gesellschaft fur empirische Literaturwissenschaft." The association was only founded in 1987, and the main`publication venues for these researchers are almost just as young: they are the international journals of Poetics, published since 1971, SPIEL, published since 1982, and Empirical Studies of the Arts, published since 1983. The research is mainly produced by literary scholars, psychologists, and sociologists, although other disciplines are also represented. It is the general aim of this book to give an overview of the state of the art of the empirical study of literature as it is reflected in the work of the members of this association, emphasizing the role of literature as a psychological and social phenomenon.

What joins these researchers is their aim to describe and explain psychological and social aspects of literature in the manner of the social sciences. One result of this approach is that literature may be compared and contrasted with other forms of discourse and culture and their treatment by the social sciences. For instance, there is a self‑evident relation between literature and the other arts, which is also obvious from the title of the third international journal mentioned above. And there is another natural relation which is reflected in the new subtitle for the Journal of Poetics, "Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, Media and the Arts." These are only two of the platforms on which literature may be compared and contrasted with other forms of cultural behavior and activity that are investigated by the social sciences.

But what is most valuable about this social‑scientific treatment is not its capacity for comparison but its empirical quality, which suggests that the research is based on testable theories and produces valid and reliable knowledge. There are many traditions of research in the humanities, and literary studies is characterized by a host of distinct approaches, but not all of them can be said to be empirical in this sense. Literary scholars, together with most art scholars, are among the last to question the possibility of a scientific approach to such cultural products as literature and the arts, even though mass media research has long proven that it is possible to study comparable phenomena like the press, television, and popular culture from an empirical perspective. The deliberate combination of a scientific approach and an artistic object of research is still shocking to many academics in the humanities.

This is because many scholars in the Arts Faculty still live by the model of an academy and, indeed, sometimes of a society that is divided into two cultures, as was proposed by C. E Snow in his famous essay of that title. Many philosophers of science have argued the unity of scientific research, but this has not had a great impact on most of the humanities (Livingston 1988). When in the 1960s the Dutch universities established a new department in the Arts Faculties for the general study of literature and labeled it `department of a general science of literature' (literatuurwetenschap), this was and always has remained a controversial label.

And this even happened in the days when there were only theories of literature. It may be imagined that the emergence of empirical research that goes on to test such theories has only increased the resistance to a scientific approach to literature. The controversy became so heated that, in Germany and The Netherlands, there arose a genuine competition between paradigms in the late seventies and early eighties (e.g. Ibsch and Schram 1987). Internationally renowned psychologists and sociologists teamed up with empirical scholars of literature, but this has not impressed traditional scholars of literature much. On the contrary, what it suggests to them is that we cannot be `doing literature' but have relinquished our precious object of study to the barbarians, the number‑ crunchers, and the nerds.

The Psychology and Sociology of Literature is based on the assumption that this traditional view of the incompatibility between literature and science is misguided. We shall argue in the next pages that the empirical study of literature embodies a shift of perspective and emphasis in comparison with more traditional literary scholarship, but that it remains within the bounds of literary studies proper. The empirical study of literature is concerned with central questions of literature as a cultural practice, including its various effects on readers, various aspects of the way literary texts are read, and diverging aspects of the way literary texts are mediated and consumed as cultural products that have to compete with other texts and other media. None of these aspects can be ignored by any literary scholar who is worthy of that name. As the results of the empirical study of literature are beginning to accumulate, albeit in still modest fashion, the legitimacy of the undertaking will become less and less questionable. We hope that this book may act as a source of inspiration to new students of literature who are less upset by adopting an empirical approach to literature and related cultural phenomena. If it achieves that, then one day even the most hard‑boiled non‑empiricist will have to take note of our findings.

New York Public Library Literature Companion edited by Anne Skillion (Free Press) Pick up The New York Public Library Literature Companion to check the dates of Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past or to find out how James Joyce's Ulysses changed U.S. obscenity laws, and you may find yourself hours later absorbed in the imaginary worlds of Camelot and The Matrix or sidetracked by the fascinating history of The New Yorker. Designed to satisfy the curious browser as well as the serious researcher, this exciting new resource offers the most up-to-date information on literature available in English from around the world, from the invention of`writing to the age of the computer.

Interwoven throughout the more than 2,500 succinct and insightful entries on Creators, Works of Literature, and Literary Facts and Resources are the fascinating facts and quirky biographical details that make literature come alive. Readers will discover, for instance, that Walt Whitman was fired from his government job after his personal copy of Leaves of Grass was discovered in his desk by the Secretary of the Interior, who was scandalized by it; that James Baldwin remembered listening to blues singer Bessie Smith ("playing her till I fell asleep") when he was writing his first book; and that a publisher turned down the serialization rights to Gone with the Wind, saying, "Who needs the Civil War now -- who cares?"

Looking for information about book burning or how many Nobel laureates have come from Japan? You'll find it here. Trying to remember the name of that movie based on a favorite book? Read the "Variations" section -- you'll be amazed at the pervasive presence of great literature in today's entertainment. From Aristophanes to Allende, from Bergson to Bloom, the biographical entries will inform readers about the men and women who have shaped -- and are shaping -- the literary world. Look into "Works of Literature" to discover the significance of Beowulf, The Fountainhead, Doctor Zhivago, and nearly 1,000 other titles. Check the "Dictionary of Literature" to find out what the critics and theorists are talking about. And if you wish to delve even deeper, "Websites for Literature" and "Literary Factbooks and Handbooks" are just two of the bibliographies that will point readers in the right direction.

Unique in scope and design and easy to use, The New York Public Library Literature Companion will be at home on every reader's shelf. Whether you are immersed in Stephen King or King Lear, this book has the insights, facts, and fascinating stories that will enrich your reading forever.


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