Publication details [#54510]

Gibbs, Raymond W. Jr. 2011. The individual in the scientific study of literature. Scientific Study of Literature 1 (1) : 95–103.
Publication type
Article in journal
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Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


The scientific study of literature raises a number of critical issues on the best methods to explore how people create, interpreted and are affected by literature and other media. One approach that is widely employed in psychology is to assess the behaviors of groups of individuals in some task, and from there infer underlying cognitive structures and processes that are the likely causal basis for the observed literary behaviors. Adopting this approach allows scholars to make broad scientific generalizations about the ways that people, most generally, interact with literature. But many scientific methods fail to account for individual differences in literary interactions, and as importantly, the unique individual character of literary experience. This paper explores this concern in the context of some of my own previous work on conceptual metaphor theory in reading poetry, and advocate a scientific approach to literary experience, based on dynamical, self-organizational theory, that may provide the conceptual tools for proper analysis of the individual in the scientific study of literature.