Monday 21 June 2010

Conference: IGEL in Utrecht

In November last year we did a post on IGEL, an acronym for the German translation of the International Society for Empirical Research on Literature (click here). This society has goals that are close to those of OnFiction, and Raymond Mar and I are both due to attend its 2010 conference in Utrecht, from 7 to 11 July. Perhaps some of you are signed up to attend, too. I hope so; it will be good to see you there. To join IGEL go their website (click here) where you will also find a link to the conference program.

This year's conference is organized by Frank Hakemulder (who has contributed to OnFiction, click here). Its keynote speakers give an excellent sense of some of the interesting research in our area, which I thought I might take the opportunity of mentioning in this post.

The first keynote speaker in Utrecht will be Gerry Cupchik, who has worked for many years in psychological aesthetics, studying visual and literary art. In an interesting recent paper with Michelle Hilsher (Hilsher & Cupchik, 2005) the researchers compared responses to poetry presented in three different ways. They found that people preferred to read poetry themselves rather than to listen to it, to hear it, or to see it performed, because in reading they were better able to explore and interpret literary devices in an independent and creative manner.

The second keynote speaker is Joan Peskin (who has contributed to OnFiction, click here). She has been influential in showing how the methodology of expertise can be applied to reading literature. In a 1998 article, for instance, she showed that expert readers (graduate students in English) of pieces of metaphysical poetry that were unknown to them were able to employ concepts that were more useful and more far reaching in understanding a poem than novices (undergraduates), who tended to spend their time worrying over words and phrases.

The third keynote speaker is Susanne Janssen who studies the way in which literary culture and media are taken up in society. With Giselinde Kuipers and Marc Verboord (2008) she conducted a large study of arts coverage in newspapers in USA and several European counties. The researchers found that international coverage increased in European countries between1955 and 2005 in a manner the researchers called "globalization from within," but this had not occurred in USA. In all the countries studied, non-Western arts remained under-represented.

The next keynote is by Peter Vorderer and Bradford Owen. I first met Peter about fifteen years ago, when he told me about a study he had headed (published as Vorderer, Knobloch, & Schramm, 2001), in which he and his colleagues had used two versions of a German commercial TV movie. In an experiment the film was stopped at one point, and some of the watchers were asked to say whether they would like to see (a) the female character hand some money to the male protagonist, or (b) to see her kiss him, or (c) to see the version that the director preferred. If they chose (c) they saw either the (a) version or the (b) version. After the scene in which the money hand-over or the kiss occurred, the movie was the same for everybody. The researchers found that for those who had not graduated from high school the traditional, more passive, experience produced the most empathy and suspense, while those who had graduated from high-school were able to enhance their experience by making a choice. (Bradford Owen has recently completed his PhD, which was also on effects of cognitive capacity on enjoyment of film.)

The fifth keynote speaker is Sheldon Solomon, whose work I did not previously know. His title is "The worm at the core: The role of death in life and literature." Solomon has concentrated his research on why we suffer terror. A much cited article is of Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon, et al.'s (1990) study in which they showed that when people were reminded of their own mortality they became more likely to favour their in-group and to discriminate against an out-group.

The rest of the conference program looks pretty good too!

Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon et al., (1990). Evidence for terror management theory II: The effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who threaten or bolster the cultural worldview. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 308-318.

Susanne Janssen, Giselinde Kuipers & Marc Verboord (2008). Cultural globalization and arts journalism: The international orientation of arts and culture coverage in Dutch, French, German, and U.S. newspapers, 1955 to 2005. American Sociological Review, 73, 719-740.

Michelle Hilsher & Gerald Cupchik (2005). Reading, hearing, and seeing poetry performed. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 23, 47-64.

Joan Peskin (1998). Constructing meaning when reading poetry: An expert-novice study. Cognition and Instruction, 16, 235-263.

Peter Vorderer, Silvia Knobloch & Holger Schramm (2001). Does entertainment suffer from interactivity? The impact of watching an interactive TV Movie on viewers' experience. Media Psychology, 3, 342-363.
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