Jim Collins – Navigating the eLiterary

The expansion of “literary experiences” beyond the printed-page began to gather momentum in the late 1990’s as adaption mania swept Hollywood, television book clubs became front-page entertainment news, Amazon.com sold millions of books as it created on-line reading communities, and literary best-sellers became ever more intertwined with the pleasures of material culture. What constituted a literary pleasure was relocated and re-defined as “passionate reading” replaced “close reading” as the true measure of the value of that experience, in whatever format it was consumed. In this paper I focus on some of the most significant changes that have occurred within that media ecology over the course of the past decade. The high-concept literary adaptation is still alive and well in the form of The Great Gatsby and Gone Girl but I’ll be concentrating on the increasing transmediation of the literary experience by tracing connections between phenomena which have further expanded the contours of the popular literary. How has reading and watching on the same screens via ereaders impacted both the private and social pleasures of the literary? How has quality serial television given rise to an emergent “tele-literary” form that challenges the hegemony of both the novel and feature film as the preferred modes of long-form narrative? How does “world building” further expand the landscape of the literary experience?


Ben de Bruyn (Maastricht University) – Digital Passion. Novels, Apps and Contemporary Reading

Using Marisha Pessl’s bestseller Night Film (2013) as its primary case study, this paper analyzes the place of readerly passion in the contemporary media ecology, in three interlinked steps. First, I will examine how Pessl’s book, a novel which interpolates websites and movie posters and comes with a companion app that allows readers to access bonus content, attempts to integrate the reading of physical books with the use of electronic devices, comparing its strategies briefly with those of Richard House’s The Kills (2013) and Amaranth Borsuk’s experimental work Between Page and Screen (2012). Although it tries to push the envelope in terms of publishing technology, second, a closer look at Night Film reveals a remarkably old-fashioned conception of reading, authorship, fandom and books – a conception that, despite its high-tech packaging, brings to mind a seemingly contradictory project, J.J. Abrams and Doug Stroud’s S. (2013), a novel which explicitly embraces the predigital world of print culture and conjures up an older form of reading by adding marginalia and various inserts to an artificially aged book. Zooming in on those passages in Night Film where online reading is represented, finally, I will compare these to related sections from Katie Ward’s Girl Reading (2011). Although we have an elaborate mythology of print reading, this comparison suggests, contemporary literature is still struggling to develop its electronic counterpart, a cultural narrative about loving online reading.

Michael Burke (Utrecht University) – Implicit memory in literary reading

In this talk I will explore the role of implicit memory during acts of literary reading. Drawing on my own theory of the literary reading loop, I will look at the role that unconscious top-down inputs play and what it takes for such inputs to be able to overrule the incoming rhetorical, bottom-up linguistic prompts and reach conscious awareness. I will also be exploring some contemporary associative theories in cognitive psychology for points of intersection.

Gaston Franssen (University of Amsterdam) – Kerouacians,  Hemingway Buffs and Dickheads: 4Fanatical Reading and the Literary Experience Economy

Literary fans are voracious readers. Early editions, diaries, unpublished letters, anecdotes from the admired author’s family or acquaintances, even imitations, adaptations and spin-off publications – any text by, about or indirectly related to the idolized writer can serve as fuel for the unpredictable and highly creative semiotic productivity that characterizes literary fandom. Contrary to what one might expect, however, such ‘fanatical’ reading cannot be discounted as mindless or indifferent cultural consumption. In fact, fans self-consciously select and appropriate their sources and reflect on their own and others’ interpretations. By doing so, they create and recreate affective ‘mattering maps’, that allow them to shape and control their sense of self. By analyzing exemplary acts of fanatical reading, as performed by fans of Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Philip K. Dick, I argue that this form of reading is part of a ‘literary experience economy’, in which readerly poaching and ‘life style’ branding engage in a fascinating pas de deux.

Dan Hassler-Forest (University of Amsterdam) – The Politics of World-Building: Transmedia Narratives and Collaborative Audiences

Now that the emphasis in global entertainment franchises has shifted from serialized franchises to complex transmedia story-worlds, questions of reader activity, audience participation, and ‘intellectual ownership’ have once again become key topics of negotiation and debate. While the focus in fan studies has embraced questions of identity politics and the collaborative intelligence of active audience communities (see Jenkins et al.), radical cultural studies is developing a more critical perspective on the new global ‘attention economy’ (see Vercellone, Crary). From this perspective, audiences’ immersion in transmedia story-worlds could be more accurately described as ‘collaboration’ rather than ‘participation’, as it provides the immaterial (and unpaid) labor that endows corporate-owned narrative worlds with substance, legitimacy, and value. In this talk, I will discuss the relationship between transmedia world-buiilding and neoliberal capitalism, drawing on examples from Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Liesbeth Korthals Altes (University of Groningen) – My Houellebecq against yours – The uses of literary (meta)hermeneutics

Rita Felski’s and Jim Collins’ work on what literature can mean for various, including popular, audiences raises important questions about what people do with what we call literature (whether low- or highbrow or any mix of these). Their work also makes us reflect on the relevance of shared reflection on the reading experience in educational or training settings. In this paper I’d like to defend one particular social and ethical “use” of literary hermeneutics and of what I call metahermeneutics. Houellebecq’s work and persona will serve as a reference for my argument.

Moniek M. Kuijpers (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics) – Exploring varieties of the absorption experience in reading narrative literature

There is no doubt that the activity of reading over the last decade or so has developed into a more interactive and shared experience, with the ever increasing popularization of book clubs, reading groups, and discussion forums such as Goodreads or BookLikes. At the same time, when reading comments on such websites a tendency towards romanticizing “the individual act of immersion and seclusion” can be discerned. Readers seem to long for those books in which they can feel enveloped or that make them feel submerged in another world. Consequently such a reading experience requires seclusion. When considering the exponentially growing research on experiences of absorption (Nell, 1988; Gerrig, 1993), flow (Chikszentmihalyi, 1990), or transportation (Green & Brock, 2000; Green, Kass, Carrey, Herzig, Feeney & Sabini, 2008), it seems that the individual dimensions of literary consumption and appraisal have far from died out.

In my lecture I will draw on relevant literatures from both traditional aesthetics and more recent empirical endeavors to investigate the notion of absorption as a multi-faceted, but highly individual, experiential phenomenon. I aim to open up the research field of absorption, by drawing on results of my own empirical research on this topic, to include more positive outcomes (apart from mere passive entertainment) and to alleviate the mostly negative connotations that recent studies on absorption (as narrative persuasion) usually carry. Apart from that, the way in which absorption experiences are empirically investigated so far leaves little room for an understanding of the phenomenon as derived from reading typically literary texts or as being aesthetically pleasing. Therefore, I aim to broaden the focus of empirical research on possible determinants of absorption – a focus that so far has been largely on popular media (e.g., ‘media psychology’, Busselle & Bilandzic, 2009 or within ‘entertainment research’, Green, Brock & Kaufman, 2004; Oliver & Bartsch, 2010).


Braun, I. K., & Cupchik, G. C. (2001). Phenomenological and quantitative analyses of absorption in literary passages. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 19(1), 85-109.

Brecht, B. (1964). A short organum for the theatre. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, 179-205.

Carroll, N. (2012). Recent approaches to aesthetic experience. The Journal of Aesthetics and art Criticism, 70(2), 165-177.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cupchik, G. C. (2002). The evolution of psychical distance as an aesthetic concept. Culture & Psychology, 8, 155–187.

Gerrig, R. J. (1993). Experiencing narrative worlds: On the psychological activities of reading. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Green, M. C., Brock, T. C., & Kaufman, G. F. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

Hakemulder, F. (2013) Travel experiences: A typology of transportation and other absorption states in relation to types of aesthetic responses. In J. Luedke (Eds.), Wie gebannt: Aesthetische Verfahren der affektiven Bildung von Aufmerksamkeit. (pp. 163-182). Berlin: Freie Universitaet.

Kuijpers, M.M., Hakemulder, F., Tan, E.S. and Doicaru, M.M. (2014) Exploring absorbing reading experiences: Developing and validating a self-report scale to measure story world absorption. Scientific Study of Literature, 4(1), pp. 89-122.

Kuiken, D., Campbell, P., & Sopcak, P. (2012). The experiencing questionnaire: Locating exceptional reading moments. Scientific Study of Literature, 2(2), 243-272.

Nell, V. (1988). Lost in a book: The psychology of reading for pleasure. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Adriaan van der Weel (University of Leiden) – Digital literacy and screen logic
Inherent properties of print technology have created our ‘Order of the Book’, in which we reside as *homo typographicus*. This has caused a particular, ‘bookish’, form of literacy. Largely implicit conventions of book culture (such as dependable relationships between author and reader and between proposition and carrier, maintained by technological guarantees about the stability of text, including meta-textual features such as editorial control, copyright, the standard indexing of books) are still the foundation of our modern knowledge infrastructure with its publishers, libraries, and booksellers, schools and universities, and so on.
Digital text technology represents a radical break with the history of text production. Just as centuries of books and printing have conditioned us to read in a particular, typographic way, our screens are now equally set to condition us for an equally distinct, but obviously very different, way of reading, based on the inherent properties of digital textuality. Much of this conditioning is already happening, for example changing our expectations in reading from words and (still) images to full multimodality; from the fixity of print to a (renewed) fluidity; from authorial coherence and cohesion to user-controlled ‘assemblage’ of meaning; from trust inspired by authoritative knowledge institutions to trust inspired by peers and ‘democratic’ means of filtering. Screen reading is characterised by greater distraction and less sustained forms of reading, and by reliance on instant and often free 24/7 access to most of the world’s information. Such changes transform our intellectual and economic relationship with text.

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