On the “literary turn” in non-literary disciplines

A thought about the late spate of studies like this one, just reported in The Guardian:

“Literary fiction readers understand others’ emotions better, study finds: Research by US social scientists found that those who read novels by the likes of Toni Morrison and Harper Lee do better on ‘theory of mind’ tests. Genre fans do not.”

Read the full article on Dr Kidd and Castano’s study, and/or read the study itself.
Anyway, my thought is this: literary studies have long valued & practiced interdisciplinarity; but, from recent neuroscience studies on novel reading and empathy, to this latest sociological research on fiction, the apparent “literary turn” of other disciplines — often better funded and better reported disciplines — is maybe cause to ask (at the risk of seeming protectionist) to what extent those other disciplines are engaging with literary study — or colonizing it?

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3 responses to “On the “literary turn” in non-literary disciplines

  1. The article on Kidd and Castano’s study is fascinating. Thanks for posting.

  2. I would love to see a compilation of what is considered literary fiction as opposed to just fiction. I mean, I assume harlequin romance is a category unto itself, and then Nora Roberts/Maeve Binchy/Nicholas Sparks etc would be another…

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    • academicalism

      There are lots of definitions of – and debates over the distinction between – “literary” versus “genre” fiction. Harlequins would typically be considered “genre” – but so might Sparks; both as variations on the “romance” genre. “Literary” fiction might be (puckishly) defined as a novel that’s won a literary prize; or a novel that gets widely taught in university English classes (which raises the issue of canon and historical context: what’s “genre” when published can become “literature” later on…said the guy now reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White [1860]); or a novel that gets published first in hardcover…and then in a “trade” rather than “mass-market” paperback run.

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