“Studying literature is not as simple as just reading words on a page.”
Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki “used psychological and sociological methodologies to determine what literature was. He devised a mathematical formula as a theoretical answer: “F + f = literature.”
“F” refers to the impressions or ideas at the focal point of consciousness and “f” signifies emotions attending to those impressions or ideas.
Different readers interact with texts differently based on sociological and psychological factors […] ’F+f’ is not about books, but something that happens in the mind of the reader.”
Soseki argued his formula is a way to define world literature for all cultures and times.
“If you get the feeling of ‘F+f’, then you’re in the realm of literature”.
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“Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skillfulness. For instance, in fMRI studies of people reading fiction, neuroscientists detect activity in the pre-frontal cortex — a part of the brain involved with setting goals — when the participants read about characters setting a new goal. It turns out that when Henry James, more than a century ago, defended the value of fiction by saying that “a novel is a direct impression of life,” he was more right than he knew.
In one of Oatley and Mar’s studies in 2006, 94 subjects were asked to guess the emotional state of a person from a photograph of their eyes. “The more fiction people [had] read,” they discovered, “the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and…correctly interpreting social cues.” In 2009, wondering, as Oatley put it, if “devouring novels might be a result, not a cause, of having a strong theory of mind,” they expanded the scope of their research, testing 252 adults on the “Big Five “personality traits — extraversion, emotional stability, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness — and correlated those results with how much time the subjects generally spent reading fiction. Once again, they discovered “a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities” allowing them to conclude that it was reading fiction that improved the subjects’ social skills, not that those with already high interpersonal skills tended to read more.”
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“Burying your head in a novel isn’t just a way to escape the world: psychologists are increasingly finding that reading can affect our personalities.
The current research suggests that books give readers more than an opportunity to tune out and submerge themselves in fantasy worlds. Books provide the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from becoming a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment.”
The “study definitely points to reading fulfilling a fundamental need – the need for social connection.”