Poetics 18 (1989) 29-44 North-Holland 29 SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIAL COGNITION, AND THE EMPIRICAL STUDY OF LITERATURE Las,16 HALASZ * The empirical study of literature as a whole covers a significantly broader domain of knowledge than the so&-psychological study of literature. Nevertheless, the major areas where social psychology is relevant are quite important. These areas comprise studies of the relation between authors and their works, the interaction between literary and social or psychological cognition, the reception and impact of a literary work. In this paper, we shall concentrate on some fundamental problems involving assignment of meaning to a literary work, social perception of a literary character, and the linkage between cognitive and emotional processing. Fictitious characters and their interactions present a special case in regard to social cognition, the reader’s manoeuvers with the character, and the perception of the meaning of the text. Conversely the perception of the meaning is inseparable from understanding the character. In view of these functions and conventions of literary processing, we shall examine the complexity of literary text, the reader’s freedom and constraint, the differences between such a reader and the subject of a projective test, the self-relevant information processing and the unity both of cognitive and emotional interest, and of analytical and experiential understanding. 1. Introduction In our century, there have been several activities to base empirical research on literary scholarship on sociological surveys and quantitative measures of texts. Nevertheless, the empirical study of literature is still a fairly new domain because it entails a shift of focus ‘from isolated texts to text-thematizing activities of producers, mediators, recipients, and post-processors of literary phenomena in their respective social contexts’ (Schmidt (1988: 22), see Schmidt (1981, 1982), Hauptmeier, Meutsch and Viehoff (1987)). The study of a literary system can of course be approached primarily on a macrosociological and medium-theoretical rather than a socio-psychological level. And psychology may not be relevant or at least not adequate for specifying the practical applications of the results. The empirical study of literature as a whole covers a significantly broader domain of knowledge than socio-psychological study of literature. * Author’s address: L. Hal&z, Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, PF 398 H-1394, Hungary. 0304-422X/89/$3.50 0 1989, Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. (North-Holland)
Poetics 18 (1989) 29-44 North-Holland
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, SOCIAL COGNITION, AND THE EMPIRICAL STUDY OF LITERATURE
Las,16 HALASZ *
The empirical study of literature as a whole covers a significantly broader domain of knowledge than the so&-psychological study of literature. Nevertheless, the major areas where social psychology is relevant are quite important. These areas comprise studies of the relation between authors and their works, the interaction between literary and social or psychological cognition, the reception and impact of a literary work.
In this paper, we shall concentrate on some fundamental problems involving assignment of meaning to a literary work, social perception of a literary character, and the linkage between cognitive and emotional processing. Fictitious characters and their interactions present a special case in regard to social cognition, the reader’s manoeuvers with the character, and the perception of the meaning of the text. Conversely the perception of the meaning is inseparable from understanding the character. In view of these functions and conventions of literary processing, we shall examine the complexity of literary text, the reader’s freedom and constraint, the differences between such a reader and the subject of a projective test, the self-relevant information processing and the unity both of cognitive and emotional interest, and of analytical and experiential understanding.
In our century, there have been several activities to base empirical research on literary scholarship on sociological surveys and quantitative measures of texts. Nevertheless, the empirical study of literature is still a fairly new domain because it entails a shift of focus ‘from isolated texts to text-thematizing activities of producers, mediators, recipients, and post-processors of literary phenomena in their respective social contexts’ (Schmidt (1988: 22), see Schmidt (1981, 1982), Hauptmeier, Meutsch and Viehoff (1987)).
The study of a literary system can of course be approached primarily on a macrosociological and medium-theoretical rather than a socio-psychological level. And psychology may not be relevant or at least not adequate for specifying the practical applications of the results. The empirical study of literature as a whole covers a significantly broader domain of knowledge than socio-psychological study of literature.
* Author’s address: L. Hal&z, Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, PF 398 H-1394, Hungary.
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Still, the major areas where social psychology is relevant are not necessarily too limited or unimportant. These issues certainly merit attention: 1. studies of the relation between authors and their works: 1.1. the relation between the formation of new literary directions or schools and the changes in authors’ social cognition; 1.2. the relation between extraordinary historical events (e.g. wars, revolutions) and the organization of a generation of authors; 1.3. the relation between the work of a generation of authors and their groupings, attitudes, interpersonal network; 2. studies of literary and (socio)psychological cognition and their interaction: 2.1. the socio-psychological analysis of literary works which deal with social norms, roles, attitudes, deviant behaviour, leadership, group conflict, identity, competition, and so on; 3. studies of the reception and impact of a literary work: 3.1. the social psychology of prestige and context effect, and that of literary evaluation; 3.2. the social perception of a literary character: the reader’s primacy effect, story-, event-, goal-, person- and self-schemata, attribution and empathic processes, and linkage of cognitive and emotional processing; 3.3. the assignment of meaning to a literary work; 3.4. the effect of a literary work on the reader’s attitudes, including cognitive, affective and conative variables; 3.5. the traditional (conventional) vs. modern (non-conventional), and the narrative vs. poetical (lyric) dimensions in relation to 3.1-3.4; 3.6. attitudinal and cognitive style variables influencing the reader’s social (cold and hot) cognition in relation to 3.1.-3.5. In this paper I will concentrate on some fundamental problems which mainly concern 3.3. First, I will consider them in terms of social cognition: our knowledge of how people perceive and think of other people and themselves, and of their interactions. Fictitious characters and their interaction present a special case of this, as do the reader’s maneouvers with the protagonist, which - without entailing direct actions - affect the perception of the meaning of the text. Conversely, the perception of the meaning is inseparable from understanding the character (Hal&z (1987a)).
2. Functions of literature and conventions of literary processing
In Sherrington’s classical metaphor (1906), our nervous system is a funnel turned with its wide opening toward the outside world and its narrow opening toward our behaviour. The amount of information bombarding the central nervous system is much greater than could get through the narrow opening. Vygotsky (1965) believes that somehow we need to gratify a considerable
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portion of the ‘attractions and calls’ which cannot get through; we might bring into play the otherwise eliminated bits of experience by working through potential but not realized patterns of behaviour. In the reception of art, we supplement information we otherwise cannot access and counterbalance our limitations (Simonov (1966)).
It might readily be assumed that literature fulfils the functions by means of its formal linguistic characteristics. In Sklovsky’s (1925) view, literature uses formal devices which, by increasing the difficulties of perception, ‘make strange’ usual everyday language. Mukaiovsky (1964) emphasizes that the complex but homogeneous structure of a literary work arouses tension be- tween foregrounded and backgrounded elements and relations. He also points out that devices that deviate from the automatized use of language can be found outside literature, but the degree of integration is different. He thus draws a distinction between the ‘unstructured aesthetics’ of everyday language and the ‘structured aesthetics’ of literature; literature can be differentiated from everyday language and other related vebal forms of communication, but cannot be seen without preference to them.
Elsewhere, Mukafovsky (1970) points out that aesthetic function is not an epiphenomenon of other functions but a codeterminant of human relations with reality, deeply rooted in social behaviour. Aesthetic values encompass other values, which they do not suspend, but organize into a new dynamic structure. There is a continuum between non-artistic and artistic, and the major difficulty is that we cannot stipulate the exact point on this continuum where we enter the world of art.
Jakobson (1960) also suggests that the poetic (aesthetic) function could be applied to all sorts of communication, but it assumes a dominant role in literature and most strikingly in lyric poetry. Even here, the referential function is not suspended but becomes polyvalent with a significant paralle- lism among forms and structures. But Jakobson also fails to give a valid criterion for when the poetic function makes a text literary (Pratt (1977)). As for parallelism, Werth (1979) found this organization not only in a Shakespeare sonnet but in rather bad poems and newspaper columns. So deautomatization and foregrounding by themselves are not the sole bearers of ‘literariness’ or ‘ poeticalness’, as they can be applied to non-literary texts as well and can change historically. Cyzarz once remarked that he had found less aesthetic energy released by the modem literary works than by an ophthalmological text-book (quoted by Wehrli (1951)). The quality of literariness is so elusive because a text has no concrete, specific property which makes it literary (Van Dijk (1979)). There is no literary object, there is only literary function that any sort of written text can have (Genette (1972)). Pratt (1977) stresses the readers’ decision whether to read a work as literature.
These statements are double-edged. They emphasize how many kinds of texts can exert literary effects. Readers must be willing, in accordance with the
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view and traditions of our narrative culture, to process a wide variety of texts as stories which express human fate on emotional states and can be interpreted in polyvalent ways. It is precisely the consequence of this willingness that under given circumstances we may perceive even a laconic and simple text as rich in meanings.
Literariness and meaning are not inherent features of a text but outcomes of cognitive operations (Schmidt (1981)). These operations are regulated by aesthetic and polyvalence conventions (Schmidt (1982)). The reader brings to bear the aesthetic expectations, norms and criteria relevant to literature and assigns diverse meanings to the same text and according to text, context, time, situation, goals, and knowledge systems. The same text can have widely different cognitive, emotional, and moral readings.
This conception in contrast to that of the ‘ideal reader’ whose literary competence fulfills the demands of a literary work (cf. Fowler (1981)) assumes a significant role to the psychological study of literary reception. But any problem remains of a complete psychological relativism: if essentially every- thing depends on the reading practice determined by the conventions, then the relation between the text and the reader is like the relation between the projective test and the subject.
By an extreme extension of the concept let us consider the material of a projective test as a text. This kind of text, in contrast to a literary one, never says anything about the world, the author, and the author’s relation to the world and to himself. It never communicates anything or influences anybody. It has no communicative intention. It is a text but not a discourse. Though it is a starting point for the subject’s response, we have no genuine text-subject interaction, as the subject basically does not interpret the text (or himself either) but responds to the text with a spontaneous and rather indirect, that is, projected, self-presentation.
No matter how enigmatic and ambiguously structured a literary text may be, and how little it requires specific formal linguistic characteristics, the problem is that it has no meaning assignment-conditions, but has a circle of meaning potential or meaning set. Certain elements may be easily available, while others are more obscure and hidden, so that the reader’s interpretive activity assumes a greater role. Especially in non-conventional works the authors rely on Freudian primary process by increasing regression, free associations, and remote analogies, as Martindale (1975) pointed out. At least for a time such a text gives the impression of a loosely structured or unstructured material like a projective test. (Sometimes the reader notices this.)
Provided the reader can process only conventional narrative texts, a non- conventional literary text would lose its communicative potential and really function as a projective test. The reader would respond by projecting his own needs, desires, idiosynchrasies, if he were given the standard instructions of a
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projective test. But there is some limitation even in this case. Because of differences in provocative or evocative strength the characteristics of a test stimulus cannot be discounted even with the most robust projective tests. The subject’s projective possibilities are always limited in a rather broad way by the characteristics of the stimulus.
3. Complexity of literary text, the reader’s freedom and constraint
As argued so far, we recognize that a literary text has no specific characteris- tics which make it literary, yet the composite of constituents, which in themselves can be found in other texts as well, can function within a peculiarly complex and multilevelled meaning of a text our culture evaluates as literary.
Even in everyday communication primary meanings are usually connected with secondary ones. The specific nature of a literary text is that the percep- tion of denotative meaning is not the most essential part of understanding: the reader activates a text comprising an intentionally (‘according to a program’, Marcus (1974)) structured network of connotations and contextual meanings.
During reception the knowledge the reader can mobilize is less limited by the task than for scientific or more generally, expository discourse. And imaginative processing operations are far less strictly determined. But the most critical moment is the goal-state, as it is simply impossible to find a perfect solution (interpretation) and to predict exactly how many and what sort of equivalent solutions (interpretations) there can be. The recipient of an exposi- tory discourse confronts a clearly defined problem, while in literary discourse the problem is ‘ill-defined’ (cf. Reitman (1965)). All these factors allow scope for the recipient’s emotions, memories and thoughts.
Nevertheless, we need not conclude that the role of a text is unimportant compared with that of ‘interpretive communities’, as Fish (1980) does. He is, of course, right to say that meaning cannot be ‘picked up’, interpretation enters at the very beginning of reading and is determined by the reader’s acquired language, norms, and social patterns. But we cannot claim that the main difference between a page of Paradise Lost and a Rorschach blot is not in the texts but in the communal interpretation. Scholes (1986: 152, 154) points out that ‘no language community is congruous with any interpretive community. . . A printed text is never only on the page. It is a transaction between what is on the page and the particular linguistic code that originally enabled those works to carry meaning. This is in fact what distinguishes a written text from a Rorschach blot’.
It is quite clear that if the reader’s cognitive operations cut as processing-in- terpretive rules acquired by socialization and function together with the cues of a text, the reader’s activity is more strongly and prominently determined than the subject’s answer in a projective test. We might recall here Iser’s (1978)
standpoint that a text renders different meanings possible while it restricts the possibilities; but he still refers to ‘the message of a text’ or ‘the ultimate meaning of a text’, which reveals inconsistencies between his view of text-reader interaction and his appeal to a meaning belonging primarily to the text (cf. Holub (1984)).
In contrast, the presented standpoint means, in Sartre’s words, that ‘for the reader everything is to be done and everything is already done’ (quoted by Culler (1982: 76)), accords with Rosenblatt’s (1985) transactionalism. As notes, Dewey and Bentley (1949) used the term ‘transaction’ to collapse the dualism of elements in stimulus-response interaction. They envisioned a bi-directional process during which the living being selects the stimulus from the environment and in doing so produces it to some degree, one responds to what it has produced by selection. In some such way, Rosenblatt argues the letters on paper will be a literary text in relation to the reader, and, recipro- cally, the subject will be a reader in relation to a literary text.
So we have reason to regret the implications of an apsychological view of literature which concentrates, implicitly at least, on inherent true meaning and on an ideal impersonal reader. Psychological relativism, leading to the com- plete deconstruction of a text (cf. Culler (1981, 1982)) is equally far from transactionalism. In a trivial sense it is of course true that as many (mental) texts exist as readers (Derrida (1967)) but these variations among readers normally concern such individual differences of far less significance than communal similarities. The mental interpreted text has objective determinants; so the perceived text is a joint product of the reader and the text characteris- tics (Martindale (1988)). And based on the results of a cross-cultural research with American and Hungarian short stories Martindale even ventures the opinion that a greater part of the variance can be ascribed to text characteris- tics than to the reader.
Maybe this conclusion seems too bold but has precedents in the psychologi- cal study of literary understanding. Short and Alderson (1987) processed a narrative text independently of each other by reading aloud. Though the recording showed obvious differences in how much they read from line to line, forward and backward, and how much they repeated, the similarity was more striking. Their interpretations did not differ significantly and the difference steadily diminished as they continued to read the text and revise their earlier interpretation. This finding again suggests that the text imposes a framework on the conditions of the reader’s construction. But the two experimenters worked at the same university department, and their agreement may be related to similar shared experiences with literature.
Van Peer (1986) examined the reception of poems in terms of two funda- mental foregrounding devices: phonological, linguistics or semantic deviation, and parallelism. He found correlations between the foregrounded parts of a poem and what readers judged important, striking, or worth discussing inde-
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pendently of their prior training and attitude toward poetry. Van Peer pointed out that nursery rhymes, children’s songs, jokes, and riddles, as well as advertisements and campaign texts also use foregrounding. But literary texts and especially poetry are marked in practice by the type and ratio of these devices, and the reader is cued to take part in literary communication.
In accordance with this, Hoffstaedter’s (1987) study argued that when everyday routine text processing is interrupted, for instance by syntactic deviations and repetitions, the reader is driven to a higher-level interpretation, and to shift to poetic text processing. Viehoff (1986) also emphasizes that an increase of problematic ideas elicits specific literary processing strategies under suitable conditions: if the reader feels free to refer to non-ordinary communicative situations and world models, and to treat the characteristics of a text as cues of a poetic background for shaping his mental models in respect to past literary experiences.
4. Self-relevant information processing
In an earlier paper (Hal&z (1987a)), I analyzed the functioning of serial and parallel processing and of preattentive processes and multiple thinking during literary understanding, concluding there is a contradictory relation between the text (author) and the reader. The very reason why the reader turns to a short story, novel, or drama is to find peculiar surplus possibilities which increase the utilisation of his channel capacity. However, the intricacy and multilevelledness of texts are fed into a system of information processing whose outlet (whether action or conscious cognition) has a limited capacity. Even if literary discourse counterbalances the limitations of information processing, the reader also needs to compensate for the obstacle of processing limits. The more effort is needed, the less competent the reader, or the more original or surprising the text.
But my argumentation was based only on the analysis of ‘cold’ cognitions of the reader and I referred to emotional processes only as if they were subordinated to some cognitive activities or derived from them. I have no space here to present the debate over cognition versus emotion (Zajonc (1980, 1984), Lazarus (1982)), nor the discussion of emotion memory network (Anderson (1980), Bower (1981), Gilligan and Bower (1984)) and self-schemata (Markus (1977)). I can only raise the issue of empathy, the role of which is rather significant in literary understanding as well. The study of empathy shows that although cognitive processes may be exterior to or partially independent of the emotional processes that form the core of empathy, these two processes are interwoven from early childhood (Hoffmann (1984)). Also, the empathetic mode may be changed by the egocentric one; empathy is unduly strong ‘self-relevant’ cognition and emotion. Thus, empathy may
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enrich our literary experience and help us counterbalance our limitations by identifying with fictitious characters, situations, or points of view or by becoming involved in them, but may also cause idiosyncratic or distorted perception.
As Hamilton (1983) emphasizes, the pioneering research of Bartlett (1932) already showed how our world knowledge is penetrated by personal and idiosyncratic factors. Goal dispositions, social attitudes, self-evaluations and expectations can be found among prototypical abstractions and schema-based references. And all these are hierarchically organized. So it is indispensable to evaluate stimuli, and to decide about the subjectively most acceptable reac- tion. That is why, Hamilton says, it is useful to search for a complex self-schema, an ultimate regulative super-schema.
In the transaction between text and reader, even readers of the same education adapt communal sources to their own needs, dispositions, values, and personal goals (Kintgen and Holland (1984)). In some sense interpretive text processing is always self-analytical. During literary reception, self-con- sciousness can oscillate. If one discovers text elements relevant to the self, self-reflection and elaboration will increase, and experience self-assertion - either so that the self-image will be reinforced by the reading or it will be opposed by it. Vipond and Hunt (1984) emphasize the role of elaborative processes in the point-driven literary understanding. And Meutsch (1987) notes how important personal experiences are in these elaborations.
The protagonist’s interpersonal relations and conflicts are strong stimuli for the reader to recall similar experiences from his own past. The role of the reader’s mood was verified by experimental data (Gilligan and Bower (1984)) suggesting that the reader’s mood primes the emotionally congruent elements, which facilitates the processing episodes of similar mood: the reader either thinks of antecedents and consequences, or imagines himself in the described event. We can assume that during reading of a mood-congruent episode, the relevant memories are more easily available. (Whoever failed an exam will project into a protagonist whose problem is the same.) But we can also think that mood will regulate the selectivity of attention.
Beyond the mood factor, the self-concept generally aids the appearance of characteristics one perceives as different from those of other people, as unusual, extraordinary (Hastie (1981)) McGuire and McGuire (1981)). The danger is slight that one’s own self-schemata are forced upon a literary character (that is, only the experiences are relived and the traits are perceived towards which one is sensitive). But the situation is different when the cognitive representation of the self consists of comprehensive categories refer- ring to a major part of the full cognitive structure of person-related schemata (Hamilton (1981)). Some experimental data indicate that strikingly self-de- scribing categories are salient in characterizing other people (Shrauger and Patterson (1974)).
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If the stable core of the self-concept is threatened by the information needed to explain other people’s behaviour and judge their traits, the subject will stick to the self-schemata which are fundamental in the operative self-con- cept. But this effect need not occur if the working self-concept consists largely of a subset of self-concepts connected to social events depending on actual emotional conditions. And self-relevant information processing is less biased here.
The experience of sameness and difference between our self and others, i.e., the experience of our identity, is a recurrent personal theme in our life, and perception of new information is a variation on this theme (Lichtenstein (1977)). Holland (1985) describes how personal theme (for instance the reader’s desire for a balanced world) influences the processing of a short story as a formation of a theme-variation. His key term is the DEFT, that is, defense, expectation, fantasy and transformation. Expectation places the work in a person’s temporal sequence; transformation endows the work with a timeless meaning. Defense shapes what the individual lets in from outside; fantasy shapes what the individual projects from himself into the outside world. The transaction between reader and text is realized by these processes and the reader recreates his identity. Identity effectively functions as a super-self- schema.
So the possibility arises that during reception the text may be constructed by enriching special identity elements. Nevertheless Ray (1984) observes that we can be sure only about enrichment of individual identity. Holland com- pares the identity theme coming from non-literary data (exploration, projec- tive tests) with the answers to a literary text - he relates a personal (perceived) text to another kind of personal text. In this way emotional processing gets due place, but we must also consider how the reader uses a standard of his own (self)references during literary understanding.
5. The unity of cognitive and emotional interest, and of analytical and experiential understanding
As Kintsch (1980: 98) points out, in contrast to reading a simple story in a laboratory, for a literary narrative ‘the comprehension process is controlled not merely by a single (conventional) schema that is imposed on the process on top-down fashion, but several different schemata.. . [which] are activated in a bottom-up fashion from the text itself, or that are indeed constructed while reading a story from the information so far processed.. _ Different control schemata allow for different levels of comprehension’. In accordance with Berlyne’s ideas (1960, 1971), Kintsch thinks that these schemata are connected with complex ways of presenting events which elicit cognitive interest. Other regulatory schemata are built into processing, depending on the reader’s
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personal (sub)goal. Cognitive interest is complemented by cognitive impor- tance. Though Kintsch does not raise the issue, we can postulate self-schemata which are also activated while reading the text. So we would explore not only the intellectual-aesthetic emotions activated by cognitive interest, but also more primary, egotistic emotions in literary understanding.
Even when a reader does not find a text cognitively interesting and important, its direct emotional impact can be remarkable. Such a text, Kintsch says, is ‘emotionally interesting’, not because of their (surprising) role in the complex cognitive structure but because of emotion arousals in themselves, both within and outside the context. Violence or sex are obvious instances. Or, the protagonist influences the reader’s vicarious experience or modifies his mood.
Kintsch admits that the distinction between cognitive and emotional inter- est is problematic, because it cannot take interactions into consideration, as in the case of surprise. Brewer and Lichtenstein (1981, 1982) point out that surprising discourse structure is one of the decisive factors in affective-struc- tural effect of a text. Decisive information about the story plot is omitted until significantly later. When the reader gets the information he will be surprised, and depending on its discrepancy with the schema, he must reinterpret the underlying global representation of the text. Blanchard and Iran-Nejad (1987) found specific differences even in reading time and eye movements, depending whether subjects read a detective story with surprise-ending or a control version in which the information was already given at the beginning. In the original text, the subject’s reading time increased in the part where the surprising information was introduced. As a result of the surprise and reinter- pretation, the number of fixations associated with the rereading also increased.
The differences ‘might be only due to the affective response or only to the cognitive response, the reinterpretation of the global representation. However, the subjects’ response to the surprising information could also be viewed as a unified one, the affective and cognitive response being aspects of the same mental activity; in this case it would make no sense to separate the two’ (Blanchard and Iran-Nejad (1988: 138)).
But even apart from this, we could not be satisfied with Kintsch’s concep- tion limited to emotions cognitively aroused by the text and to stronger emotions that stand on their own. This dual conception is unjustified in the length of what we know about motor, schema-based, and conceptual processing of emotions (Leventhal (1980)) and their role in empathy. Schemata for stories, goals, persons, and so on do not function separately from one another. The cognitive (collative) operations among different formal features or formal and contentual features of a text do not arouse emotions separately from violent, sexual, or similar events which happened to the protagonist in the same text, but within the frame of a unified process activating various parts of
the same emotional memory network.
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We must emphasize again the differences between reading a brief labora- tory story and a literary text. Van Dijk (1980) characterized all narrative texts as action-oriented, i.e., dependent on action schemata. Lichtenstein and Brewer (1980) found that the schemata for understanding simple narrative texts share common properties: they belong to a general category for coding goal-directed behaviour. Yet a literary protagonist is greatly at the mercy of the reader, who can do much more with a literary hero than with either the hero of an artificial story or with a real life person. First, the interpretation of literary stories is much more variable than of simple stories, and the reconstruction of what is happening is intentionally more open-ended. Second, the perception of literary heroes proceeds in a more tolerant and flexible way than with real life, and can concentrate on producing the meaning of the work (Hal&z, Laszlo and PlCh (1988)).
In a short story or a short novel, the presented situation is usually clear, and new information is rather limited. The analytical situational content will be overlearned and become a background (Spiro (1982)). The reader does not have to remind himself repeatedly of the situation or the episode. If nothing important happens for a time, the reader will not lose interest. Information does not change but the reader’s emotions do. ‘You must comprehend a situation (perhaps to the point of overlearning it) before you can figure out what it means to you. That is, it takes longer to determine how an episode relates to one’s values and world views than to assign that episode a complete semantic representation. More important may be the fact that personal evaluative understanding is less clear cut, has fewer rules for determining correctness, and therefore is more difficult to achieve than schema-based comprehension’ (Spiro (1982: 80)). And it is especially difficult to do this with a non-conventional literary text, where the organization of the text and the plot do not coincide. Often, the reader’s main task is to unravel the underlying plot hidden beneath the structure of the text.
Spiro emphasizes that there is a complementary relation between analyt- ical/discursive and experiental understanding. The directly relived experience is more continuous and holistic than discrete, more particular than abstract, and refers to the self-system of idiosyncratic satisfactions more than the analytical structure does.
However convincing Spiro’s argumentation is that even the informational content of a conventional literary work may be relegated to the background and the text is open to emotions and personal evaluative long-term under- standing, we must also consider that both emotional and cognitive processes can proceed extraordinarily quickly. (We have already seen this in Blanchard and Iran-Nejad’s experiment.)
Zajonc (1980) reports that classifying stimuli requires much less time than understanding their semantic meaning. The initial period of information processing does not occur consciously, as Shevrin and Dickman (1980) con-
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elude. Global information processing occurs even in this preattentive period. And if one gets verbal information, pictorial associations appear as well. As one understands these sooner than their verbal references, the perceptual system applies their meanings as ‘ tacit knowledge’ before verbalization (Posner (1973) Turvey (1973)). And if pictorial associations tend to be affective it is understandable that when experiencing a literary text we have the impression that we understand a lot of things and our experience is subtle and rich. But after a short time we often remember the experience only obscurely and do not find the words which during the experience seemed to be in our grasp (White (1980)).
Despite difficulties in verbalization, it can be supposed that the effect of the quickly aroused emotions is fundamental in any personal evaluative under- standing. Naturally, pictorial contents, which are readily connected with emotions, can figure in long-term experiential understanding as well, when the reader mediates on a given episode. This factor does not contradict Spiro’s (1981) dualistic claim that the propositional representation of the content of the text is realized by schemata and the analogical representation of the experienced state occurs simultaneously. But Spiro is thinking of schemata for events, situations and stories, though the activation of personal values and satisfactions involves emotional memory schemata and self-schemata, these are, however, represented propositionally.
The most direct form of a reader’s analogical thinking is based on ‘the expansion of a self, which is realized by the instantiation of a schema preserving analogical characteristics between the self, others who are close to him, and the protagonist (Holyoak (1982)). Like the duality of interest, that of understanding is also relative. Emotion and cognition before and after con- scious reflection, both for short and long terms, are inseparably connected. Reception of non-conventional literary narrative is no exception. Though the educated reader recognizes significantly looser spatial, temporal and causal connections between the episodes or the protagonist(s)’ actions, he presumably does not abandon situation- and event-schemata derived from everyday life on causal schemata about people’s relations and behaviour. Instead, the reader attempts to treat a non-conventional literary text as if it had been constructed like a conventional one: he perceives it as if the text had been created by the artificial interruption and scrambling of spatially, temporally and causally connected events and situations. He observes the cues which help to signal the relevant schema for reconstructing a more normal correct order, or notices that what follows in the text later on as if it had happened earlier, or what follows in the text in a sequence as if forming a unity in the protagonist’s eye must have happened on three different occasions, and so on.
Moreover, the educated reader also has a set of literary schemata which do not adhere to conventional story-schemata. He is directed by the elements of this set at the very beginning of reading about what kind of schema-based
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processing will probably help him with reception. For instance, the schemata of the protagonist acting without motives, or living at the borderline of the real world and dream world or governed by the laws of a dream world, or turning from a man into a beast at one stroke, or continuously remembering things, or inserting essays into the course of the story. But any such literary schema itself consists of several subschemata. So the schema of the protagonist continuously remembering things may appear as recalling blurred variations of memories from early childhood; as a stubborn recurrence of one memory from different perspective; as a swirling recall of varied memories until the appearance of a key memory which clarifies everything retrospectively, and so on. That is why no new literary text can take place in an ‘information vacuum’ (Jauss (1970)).
Lyric poetry seldom portrays fictitious characters’ actions, behaviour, and fate. The lyricist, says Becher (1955) forms himself; he is the protagonist. The
borderlines between subject and world are fuzzy. Where a figure does not separate sharply from other patterns of the world, the reader has more limited access to information about the protagonist’s traits and situation for interpret- ing him and his world. Processing is less firmly suported by event- and story-schemata but also by person schemata. The feelings aroused by the expressive-motor system due to the effect of vocal-verbal formations cannot be so readily connected with the protagonist(s)’ behaviour.
So the effect of lyric poetry is different even from that of narrative literature without conventional characters. There is no apsychological anti-hero who would not behave in some way and would not be shown against other figures and the background. So that the reader can identify him as a character and assign motives, dispositions, and situative elements to his behaviour.
While the reader of a lyric poem is less dependent on memories, thoughts, and emotions mobilized by a protagonist(s)’ traits and (inter)actions, the
regularity of rhythm by itself or together with other poetical formal features, are sources of pleasure. Thompson (1978) speaks of suggestive or hypnotic mood-influencing effect of rhythm. Suggestivity is reinforced by varied rep- etitions, and understanding the semantic contents of a poem is presumably lessened or at least delayed. In particular, the emotion-arousing effect of the modern poetic form is primary in comparison to semantic content (Hansen (1986)). At the same time emotional disposition helps self-relevant information processing which is in apparent accordance with the characteristics of the text: the poetic self experiences everything, everything happens to it and through it. Non-conversational lyric poetry constructs an imbroglio of condensations and transfers in which we can find orientation only by applying relatively new conventions.
42 L. Hal& / Socinl psychology, social cognition
The educated recipient is able to perceive everything he reads in relation to a storehouse of experiences and literary-aesthetic structures in his emotional memory network. The more one deals with significantly varied schemata about world events and about literature (which demands not only using but creating schemata, cf. de Beaugrande (1987)) and the more one can connect these with self-relevant information processing, the more probable it is that one can strike a balance while one impoverishes the given literary text due to a limited capacity for processing in some respects, in others one can make use of possibilities to increase the application of one’s channel capacity.
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