Monday 9 November 2009

The Usefulness of Research on Literature

The International Society for Empirical Research on Literature and Media was founded in 1987. The name by which it is usually known is IGEL an acronym of its name in German, Internationale Gesellschaft für Empirische Literaturwissenschaft, and this name (I understand) also means "hedgehog," which is why the Society's logo is as it is. The Society was formed to promote empirical research on all aspects of literature and media, its history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as its psychology.

Although the aims of OnFiction include extensions beyond the academy, IGEL is the academic society that is closest to our heart, because it promotes the idea of understanding how fiction works, how it really works in people's minds, and this necessarily has a secure basis in empirical research.

This post is to announce the next IGEL conference in Utrecht, the Netherlands, from 7 to 11 July 2010, which is being organized by Frank Hakemulder, and which will include, as a keynote speaker, Joan Peskin, both contributors to OnFiction (for Frank's contribution, click here, and for Joan's click here).

The principal aim of the 2010 IGEL conference in Utrecht will be discussion of how empirical research on literature can contribute to society. Research councils in a number of countries try to direct scientific research into channels from which direct economic benefits are likely to flow. There is debate, therefore, as to the role and benefits of the humanities, including literature, in education and society. Among claims made in this debate, few are supported by empirical research. The website in which the announcement is made of the upcoming conference therefore stresses the idea that empirical research will have an important role in the debate, because, as the announcement says:
IGEL’s unique combination of members from the Humanities (e.g., literary studies, media studies) and the Social Sciences (e.g., sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists) makes it an excellent forum for exchange and cooperation to make our research socially useful. Some use it to work together on testing hypotheses formulated by literary theorists. Others explore the relevance of laboratory studies for complex stimuli like movies and literary texts. Still others study behavior within social institutes in order to inform other disciplines like literary history.
Although the usefulness of empirical research literature is the principal theme of the upcoming conference, other issues are not excluded. You are invited to submit symposia, papers, and posters in the following (or related) fields, with a submission deadline of 1 February, 2010.
• Literary reading processes (emotion, cognition, personality, etc.);
• The social role of literature and related media (e.g. film, theatre, Internet, multimedia, virtual reality);
• Literature and media from an evolutionary perspective;
• Early literary / media socialization;
• Pedagogical and educational aspects of literature and the media;
• The processes of literary/media production, distribution and reception;
• The role of literary and other cultural institutions: past, present and future;
• The empirical study of historical reception and historical readers;
• Historical reception studies;
• Digital methods of research on literature and the media (corpus studies, hypertext models, etc.).

Membership of IGEL is inexpensive and open to everyone with an interest in empirical research on literature (click here for the Society's website). The 2010 IGEL conference website can be reached by clicking here; the site will shortly allow submissions to the conference to be made. This promises to be a really good meeting.

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