The ELIT research program and its objectives

ELIT will address issues of reading in this digital age in various manners: in studying the cognitive mechanisms underlying literary reading (in digital and non-digital formats), in studying the influence of digitization on the mechanisms of “empathy” and “identification”, and in investigating how to transfer the highly desirable effects of deep reading to reading in the digital age.

In order to establish the potential positive effects of literary reading and their extent, we have formulated three main research objectives, corresponding to three research Work Packages (WPs).

The three work packages are focused on finding answers to the following questions:

  1. What are the fundamental processes that underlie literary reading?  WP1
  2. How does narrative empathy function during literary reading?  WP2
  3. Does literary reading have effects on mental well-being?  WP3

In collaboration with the non-academic partners the three research WPs will develop models and tools linked to societal challenges in relation to reading in the digital world:

  1. What are the differences between literary reading on screen and on paper?  WP1
  2. How can we transfer the positive outcomes of narrative empathy from paper to screen?  WP2
  3. Which measures can we take to promote the benefits of literary reading on mental well-being?  WP3

All three research WPs guiding the ten early-stage researchers focus on specific short- and long-term effects of literary reading and all three WPs will investigate how digitization affects these issues in Empirical Literary Studies.

What makes the ELIT research program unique is the combined and diversified use of interdisciplinary methodologies from the humanities and cognitive sciences. This requires not only solid knowledge in a specific research field but also the ability to transfer that knowledge to an interdisciplinary context. Table 1. shows the background and skills of all the beneficiaries of the ELIT consortium and thus reflects the interdisciplinary nature of our network.

Due to the complexity of the reading activity, each WP adopts specific approaches and methodologies. WP1 will mainly use a multilevel, neuro-cognitive method, combining qualitative and quantitative text analysis with reader responses; WP2 will mainly use a reader-response approach and questionnaires (i.e., offline direct methods); and WP3 will mainly use a cultural analytic approach, as well as qualitative and corpus linguistics methods (i.e., a combination of offline indirect measures and online direct measures). The remaining WPs are devoted to Training, Communication and Dissemination, and Management.

ELIT aims to bring different perspectives on readers’ response together by fostering theoretical discussion, formulating novel hypotheses, and designing empirical studies that use more ecologically valid integrative methods. Reading research is inherently multidisciplinary. So far, however, there exists only little collaboration between experimental disciplines (e.g., psychology; neuroscience; psycholinguistics) and non-experimental disciplines (e.g., cultural studies; literary theory; sociology). ELIT will stimulate

High-quality interdisciplinary research: our doctoral candidates will combine theory-driven approaches common in the humanities with approaches more common in empirical sciences. This effort will effectively counter continued theoreticalmethodological dispersal and isolation in European reading research. Attention will be given to several different aspects of literary reading, such as ergonomic, perceptual, cognitive, affective, aesthetic, neuronal and phenomenological aspects. The methods that our PhD students will use in their projects involve a mixture of direct/indirect and online/offline methods to approach literary reading. Exactly the combination of the latest online and offline measurements of experimental psychology with the age-long reflections on literary reading by Literary History, Rhetoric and Literary Theory, is what makes ELIT innovative.