[Scientific Study of Literature 1:1] 2011
► pp. 59–71
The scientific study of literature
What can, has, and should be done
In the present editorial, we briefly describe some aspects of the domain of the scientific study of literature, the methods that have been used, and the nature of the theories that have been developed. We discuss some of the prior work that has been done on cognitive processing of and affective reactions to literary texts and how this interacts with the nature of the reader. We note that there is a need for further work on how the literary reactions vary with the reading context. We also describe some of the methods that have commonly been used, such as reading time, questionnaire responses, and protocol analysis. The potential for applying methods from cognitive neuroscience, such as the measurement of event-related potentials and brain imaging, is an exciting opportunity in the future. Finally, we identify some of the types of explanations that have been developed in the scientific study of literature, including variable relations and processing accounts. Other kinds of theoretical approaches, such as those based on complexity theory, might be needed in the future. Our conclusion is that although a great amount of further work needs to be done in understanding literature, there are a wide range of exciting possibilities.
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