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Reading by numbers:Using quantitative methods in literary research

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Some would suggest that scientists and literary scholars make strange bedfellows. But our seemingly incompatible world-views can reflect and inform each other, particularly in the highly interdisciplinary field of educational research.

Literary scholars have long debated whether it is desirable or even possible to quantify a work of fiction. In this seminar, I will discuss some of the key arguments from both sides of the debate, focussing mainly on the many competing positions within reader-response theory.

I will also be exploring the potential benefits and drawbacks of using quantitative methods in non-empirical literary research. I will share some examples from my own work, looking at how the toolkits of corpus linguistics, functional linguistics and content analysis can give new and surprising insights into fictional texts, as well as briefly examining the growing influence of developmental psychology and neurology on theoretical research into children’s literature.

This talk is part of the FERSA Lunchtime Sessions series.

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