Publication details

Fiction and Social Knowledge : Towards a Strong Program in the Sociology of Literature



Year of publication 2020
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Russian Sociological Review – Sotsiologicheskoe Obozrenie
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Web article - open access
Keywords sociology of literature; cultural sociology; social theory; social knowledge; theorizing; aesthetic experience; fiction
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Description Following the strong program in cultural sociology, I propose a strong program in the sociology of liter-ature, which treats literary pieces rightly as relatively autonomous cultural entities and “independent var-iables”. To outline the epistemological foundations of the new research program, I compare how social knowledge comes into existence through the sociological text and the text of literary fiction. I discuss the representation of social reality in interpretive research, with Isaac Reed’s book Interpretation and Social Knowledge as a starting point. To claim literary autonomy, I outline some of the aspects which social the-ory shares with literary fiction. I am mainly interested in how social theory and literary fiction mediate social knowledge to their readers via the aesthetic experience. I identify two main categories of social knowledge mediated by literature: existential understanding and Zeitgeist. Discussing the sociological treatment of several novels, I look at how these two categories intertwine and support each other to create colorful, sensitive, but also robust and deep social knowledge, which condenses aesthetic, existential, and non-discursive aspects of social experience together with the “big picture” of whole societies. I argue that only by overcoming the often-assumed inferiority of literature in sociological research can sociology real-ize its full potential in understanding the meanings of social life.
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