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Theorizing the Social Through Literary Fiction: For a New Sociology of Literature

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VÁŇA Jan

Druh Článek v odborném periodiku
Časopis / Zdroj Cultural Sociology
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Fakulta sociálních studií

Citace
www https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1749975520922469
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1749975520922469
Klíčová slova Czech literature; landscape of meaning; literary; literature; lyrical sociology; post-communism; sociology of literature; structural aesthetics
Popis When analyzing literary fiction, most cultural sociologists still accept the well-established boundaries between the literary and the sociological, thus leaving literature stripped of its aesthetic qualities. Instead, I propose a new approach that focuses on the process of meaning-making as it occurs within the interaction between the reader and the novel in a given socio-historical setting. This allows analysts to capture those aspects of understanding social experience which are usually ‘lost in translation’ between fictional and sociological genres. My major claims are that, first, when referring to social experience, both sociological and literary texts employ aesthetic devices to mediate understanding for the reader. Second, within the literary genre, the understanding of social experience relies much more on the emotional engagement of the reader through a reading process facilitated by these aesthetic devices. Third, to benefit methodologically and epistemologically from the lyrical understanding of social experience mediated by literature, cultural sociologists must be particularly sensitive to the subtlety and ambiguity of meanings mediated by the aesthetic. The methodological advantage gained is the analysis of deeper cultural meanings grounded in, yet also going beyond, an emotionally and existentially experienced social reality, which is intersubjectively shared and filtered by various groups of readers and cultural intermediaries. The epistemological advantage gained by overcoming the assumed inferiority of literature is that cultural sociological research unlocks a whole new area for understanding the meanings of social life, especially its non-discursive dimensions. The research model I propose for a new sociology of literature adopts the landscape of meaning concept developed by Isaac Reed in combination with the aesthetic structuralism of Czech linguist Jan Mukařovský. This model will be demonstrated through an interpretive analysis of the Czech novel Sestra (published in English as City Sister Silver) by Jáchym Topol.
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