Self-Modifying Experiences in Literary Reading: A Model for Reader Response

  • Author / Creator
    Fialho, Olivia da Costa
  • This thesis introduces an approach to literary reading that takes into account experiential reading. To this purpose, it describes the different modalities of consciousness involved in the process. More specifically, it investigates how literature becomes a means for the dehabituation of readers’ understandings of themselves in the world. Its main objectives are to (a) gain access to readers’ mode of engagement during the type of reading experience that is self-modifying; (b) focus on the moments in which changes in sense of self occur; and (c) investigate the relation between textual properties and the experience of self-modification. To reach these goals, the study proposes a new method based on lexical repetition and theme modification that allows the examination of readers’ first-person accounts of their experience of a short story by Katherine Mansfield. An adaptation of previously described procedures (Kuiken, Schopflocher and Wild, Kuiken and Miall, “Numerically Aided Phenomenology”), this method is here called “Lexical Basis for Numerically Aided Phenomenology” (LEX-NAP). It is demonstrably effective in the present study as it allows for dynamic descriptions of the phenomenon, including a description of readers’ embodied repositionings as the reading unfolds. Interdisciplinary in nature, this thesis resorts to insights from literary studies, phenomenology, psychology, neuroscience, and stylistics. The results obtained are various: first, a typology of self-modifying reading experiences is offered, which helps establish a model for readers’ responses. Second, the study redefines the notion of literariness from empirical data, indicating how specific verbal, emotional and cognitive elements may account for the distinctiveness of the literary experience. Third, it clarifies the relation between textual properties and the experience of self-modification. The findings have implications for literary studies, linguistics, stylistics, and, ultimately, for literary education, where they may inform the design of alternative teaching methods with focus on experiential reading of a transformative nature.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.