Project

Evaluation of literature by professional and layperson critics: A digital and literary sociological analysis of evaluative talk of literature through the prism of literary prizes (2007-2017)

Duration
01 January 2019 → Ongoing
Funding
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Language studies
    • Literary studies
    • Theory and methodology of language studies
    • Theory and methodology of linguistics
    • Theory and methodology of literary studies
    • Other languages and literary studies
Keywords
literary sociological analysis
 
Project description

Recently, the manager of a Dutch publishing consortium manager stated that literary quality should
be measured and predicted by means of algorithms and big data-based audience research, rather
than by experts. His claim drew ire and caused the exodus of many of established authors; at the
same time, the statement is indicative of a broader societal trend in which the knowledge of
professional 'pundits' is rivalled and challenged by technological developments and the reliance on
"the wisdom of the crowds". Scholars have argued that debates on the validity of tastes and
evaluation are indicative of “a waning consensus about what has cultural value”. This project
proposes to do both qualitative and quantitative research into the perceptions of readers by means
of a digitally empowered method of literary sociology. As such, it will be the first systematic study
into the phenomenon of "layman/layperson criticism". The project will draw on a broad corpus of
critical discourse generated by six literary prizes in thee different linguistic communities (Germany,
the Low Countries and the UK) in the period 2007-2017. We aim to answer questions such as: What
are the criteria for telling 'good' from 'bad' literature used by both professional and layperson
critics? What role does the attribution of societal engagement play in the judgment of
contemporary literature? What are the differences between academic prizes and literary prizes that
draw on audience participation?