Miall, D. S., & Kuiken, D. (1998)
The Form of Reading: Empirical Studies of Literariness
Poetics 25, 327-341

The assumption that formal features in literary texts typically shape response, which has been a theme of literary theory almost since its beginnings, has been rejected by poststructuralist critics. If formal features are considered, they argue, this is because social or institutional conventions direct readers' attention to them. We argue that this claim is unsupported by empirical study. Studies designed to confirm the conventionalist position in fact show the reverse. Our examination of readers' judgements of literariness in two studies, Hoffstaedter (1989) and Hanauer (1996), and a review of our own findings (Miall and Kuiken, 1994), suggest that response to formal features is based on human psychobiological, cognitive, and psycholinguistic processes. We conclude with some observations about why response to formal features may be a significant part of literary reading.


Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles