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István KAMARÁS OJD: The reception of the literary work




The Reception of the Literary Work

(A Sociological and Social Psychological Approach)

(Summary of  Az irodalmi mű olvasója. Budapest. 2007. Gondolat p 319)


1. Aim

            If the reader is sufficiently armed with (with wide reading, with the knowledge of various literary conventions, with the attitude of conceiving the reading as an intellectual adventure) and, at the same time, is open enough, then her/his reading will be a reading-upon, for she/he reads her/his reading upon the text of the writer, and so - in a fortunate case - there could at once emerge an order both in the maze, in the chaos of the literary work of art, and in the mind of the reader, and things can gain their form. The manner, as the reader is „armed for reading”, depends in a considerable measure on her/his money and power, on her/his social status, on her/his schooling, education, disposition, values, that is, on social psychological and sociological factors. This is the very theme of my dissertation, that is, what kind of function the social psychological and sociological factors effecting the reception of literary works of art serve - besides other factors, which I also know about, but which are not investigated in this book. I do not undertake to wander all over this maze, instead I only follow the thread of literary sociology. I will remain in the domain constituting the common set of literary studies and sociology. I know that this domain is felt to be a matter for just the other discipline both by a part of literary men and sociologists, and I also know that I am considered to be rather a sociologist than a literary man, even by those literary men who regard me as a welcome guest. Nevertheless, I think about myself, for I can do nothing else, as a citizen of both countries at the same time - literature and sociology. The quantitative semantics turns to hesitate when it seeks to study artistic works, as András Veres (1979:355) calls our attention to this phenomenon. However, not only someone who performs „content-analysis” of the literary text, but also the sociologist, who studies the reception of it must be aware both of her/his dealing with an ambiguous, metaphorical language, and of the fact that the literary work of art - as Veres puts it down - „has a close structure, a particular, autonomous world yet before the sociological study”, consequently the researcher is forced to „specify the main poetical-aesthetical and ideological characteristics of the work, and always take the whole work of art into account”. The literary sociological research studying the reception of the work must begin in all cases with reading, „analyzing” and interpreting the work studied, and with becoming acquainted with the interpretations of „professional readers”. If it is not so, then the researcher can easily happen to - citing here one of the favorite samples of Veres - orientate the hero of the short story „Utazás Jakabbal” by István Császár falsely, if she/he classifies the profession of the character – fire-extinguisher-controller and stoker – under the category of „physical worker”, as these professions denote intellectual incognitos in Császár’s short story (1979:356). Nevertheless, this is not the only thing that accounts for the „double citizenship” of a literary sociologist like me, but the fact that the „professional readings” constituting the part of literary sciences and the „amateur readings” concerning sociological matter construct a common set in some sense also provides an account for my status. First, because the effect of the former can more or less be demonstrated in the latter (and, even if more rarely, we must take the effect in opposite direction into account[1]), and second, because the same forces can be demonstrated in both kinds of reading. But the literary sociologist has double citizenship in an other sense as well. Studying the reception of a work with the more high-leveled poetical creation, the more direction she/he can put questions to the readers regarding the work. As she/he offers one part of the questions to the reader in the form of close questions (optional assertions) that would already mean - as one of my lectors, Géza Horváth articulates it - „the beginning of a latent praxis of art-interpretation”. It is so even if the researcher offers the interpretations of „amateur readers”, instead of that of literary men, for the readers.

            The „literary work”, emerging in the title, is represented in my book by the novel and the short story. Although the novel and the short story mean a mass-produced, escapist lecture (we can say, pseudo-literature), those empirical reception-studies, the results of which I rely on for proving my hypotheses, have studied almost exclusively the reception, valuation, effect and interpretation of works belonging to the „high literature” (or standing not too far from it) -  the novels of József Balázs, Mihail Bulgakov, Endre Fejes, Géza Gárdonyi, Ákos Kertész, Imre Kertész, Veijo Meri, Péter Nádas, Géza Ottlik and Georges Perec, and the short stories of Zsigmond Móricz, István Örkény and Ferenc Sánta[2]. This is rather the weakness than the strength of the Hungarian reading-research. Even if owing to the good offices of the studies on literary taste – which are considered to be very efficient and sometimes very original in international respect – we can construct a reliable enough picture about home reading and the popularity of lecture-literature, about its place among the experiences, and, somewhat, about its effect as well. Compared to the home reception-researches, concerning soup-operas on radio or TV, the depth of reading- and literature sociology cannot be kept back.

            Of course, the term „reception” in the title also needs explanation. According to my conception, reception – in the narrow sense – means the reading of the literary text, something that is created in the encounter of the literary work and the reader. It is rather easy to delimit the topic of reception from such subjects as the sociology of books, reading and literature, or the history of reading, the creation of literary works, the institution-system of reading-mediation, the relationship and competition between literary texts and pictorial and audiovisual texts, the reading and literary reading customs (that is, the place, the function and the weight of reading and literary reading in the activity-system, the way of life, the dispositions and values of individuals and social groups), and the psychology, pedagogy and pathology of reading. Even the study of taste, or, precisely, literary taste touches upon my theme. However, it belongs to it so far as it has influence on the reception of literary works.


2. Methods

            It was only forty years ago when I started to research the reading of literary works. For twelve years (between 1968 and 1985) I had been working at the Department for Reading Researches of the Center for Library Sciences and Methodology, of which I had been the head as well for more than a decade. In the second half of the sixties I studied  - together with Jenő Ughy, Péter Mándí, László Szentirmai,, Judit H. Sas, Ferenc Gereben and others - the customs of reading. The reading of literature has already been a prominent theme of these reading-sociological researches, simply because the novel was the typical reading in Hungary in the sixties and seventies (but in the greater part of the population even in the eighties as well)[4]. From the beginning of the seventies the structure and dynamics of the literary taste[5], and from the middle of that decade the reception of literary works (their reception, valuation, acceptation, effect, interpretation),  and within it the function of social psychological and sociological influencing factors have got into the focus of my interest.[6] When I could do so, I also planted the examination of the literary reading and taste, of recipient behaviors in other researches (like religion- and value-sociological research) of mine, since I have experienced that the reader- and recipient-relationship connected with literature is an important characteristic for both the habit, behavior and the values of individuals and of groups.

            This dissertation  - using a sociological term - is first of all the secondary analysis of the data and the results of my own empirical researches in the sociology of literature, the articulation of verifiable theoretical conclusions going beyond their contingency. In this respect, the method of my dissertation cannot be addressed as definitely original. But those researches, the data and the results of which I rely on, can be characterized by several methodological innovations, which have never and nowhere occurred before, thus they can constitute a more or less organical part of this dissertation, being, however, by no means mere tricks of data collection and processing, rather the expression of a vision – showing original features compared to the adopted theory - about the relationship between the reader and the literary work. Such an innovation was the approval-index marking the reader-stratum elaborated with Zoltán Balogh or the presentation of the world of literary experiences by an experience configuration-map, by means of which several misconceptions concerning the taste were managed to be made clear. If I had occasion - and I do not know sample for this as well - I strived to examine the reception not of works read as experimental reading, that is, in an artificial situation, but rather the consequences of spontaneous (free happened) reading. While most of the researchers are satisfied with examining the reader in the dimension of approval-disapproval, in my researches I tried to examine the reception and effect of the work in at least half a dozen dimensions: for example, besides approval-disapproval, in the dimensions of unconcern-concern, attribution of artistic value, understanding, satisfaction, acceptance-agreement, distance from or closeness to the world of taste and the feeling of usuality or novelty. I was one of those pioneers who strived to examine the temporal process of reading short stories or novels. After the first steps of László Halász I examine the phenomenon of re-reading by new type of preconceptions and methods. I also do not know about antecedents of my action-experiment concerning the possibilities and limits of forming the literary taste. I am not only proud of my methodological inventions, but - sometimes after 25-35 years - I also reflect critically on them.

            The question of how valid the twenty, thirty years old data is for illustrating the contemporary situation might come up in the readers of my dissertation. First, in this book the results of empirical researches do not inform us about what the situation is like today, but verify theories. And second, the customs of reading literature, the reading-structure, the universe of experiences, the attitude concerning literature and the taste do not change essentially, not only from year to year, but even from decade to decade, so that – and this has been proven just by our researches - even today it is possible to know well enough the ins and outs by means of the taste- and experience-maps from the seventies-eighties-nineties. The question of whether the results of the empirical research in the seventies-eighties, that is, the readings of readers from twenty-thirty years back can serve as samples with proving power might arise. The sociological examination of the „dynamics”, the history of the home literature-reading would demand the comparing of readings of the same works from different times, but for the examination of the mechanism of reception the recent data are well useable, simply because - and this is proven just by our researches - during such a short time the reader, the taste and the mechanism of reception do not change in such an extent that our method could be attacked for it.


3. Results

3.1. Reception-theories in the Mirror of Empirical Literature-sociological Research

            According to my hypothesis constructed upon empirical research experiences, such kinds of relations can come into existence between a literary work with artistic values and the art expert reader, the result of which is a reading constituting an additional value. There is no literary text in itself, it exists only through its readings. But one can raise the following question: in what extent does the reader specify the reading? This is an extremely exciting question for both literary men and philosophers, for which they provide answers evoked here or there, and answers which take into account each of the two „parts” (the literary text and the reader). In this chapter I try to confront these answers with the experiences of literature sociological researches, and I undertake to answer the following questions: How much is the experimantable correspondence between models of literary theory, philosophy and psychology concerning the relationship between the literary work and the reader on the one hand, and experiences of the reception-examinations of sociology, social psychology and empirical literature-sociology (and social psychology) with psychological approach[7] on the other? In other words, which one of the former is the most applicable for interpreting the facts of empirical researches? In other words, again: as hypotheses, which of the former are mostly verified by empirical researches? By narrowing the question for the reception-models of aesthetic and literary theory, we can formulate it in the following way as well: how can the reception-theories of literary sciences be translated into the language of psychology, social psychology and sociology, and vice versa?

From among the theories, which can be ranked among the „omnipotent work” models, as I call them, which ignore both the intention of the author and the emotional effect, I have examined the conceptions of Russian formalism, the New Critic – which demands „close reading”, the Prague School – which denies the standpoints of text-creation and  -reception, and relies on the theory of signs and information, calling itself structuralist, the „ripe” structuralism, which regards the work as closed totality and does researches on the functioning rules of language producing meaning, and some other similar conceptions. According to some of the conceptions raised from the spirit of the „omnipotent work”, the only reason for different interpretations is that a part of the readers reads badly, interprets wrongly. One can find such a literary man even among post-structuralists, who fortify the notion of the omnipotent work. The „amateur reader” can also definitely feel that either she/he herself/himself, or somebody else (usually a competent person, who is mostly a „professional reader”, that is, a literary man) has deciphered the work. However, the great variety of the „good reading” - that is, reading found good by special people as well - by no means strengthens this standpoint.

            From among the models of the „omnipotent reader”, I have examined the conceptions of R. Barthes, S. Fish, and the psychologyzing conceptions (that of N. Holland among them) arising from the spirit of „as many reader, so many kinds of reading”. If we examine the process and the result of reception with proper patience and thorough grounding, we can show, of course, individual features in every reading, since each reader textualizes the language, puts the word into new signifying relations, into new positions of usage. Despite all of this, the thesis of the „omnipotent reader” is not reinforced by the fact that in the case of any work we find a fair number of similar enough or very similar experiences of readers and readings.

            From among the „dialogue-models” I have first examined the conceptions of  E.D. Hirsch and U. Eco, which can be ranked with the hermeneutic trend, as borderline cases, then I have studied the conceptions of the transactionism (Rosenblatt), the empty space directing the reader (Iser), the hermeneutic tradition-interpretation of Gadamer – which can be compared with the psychological (Piaget) repairing schemes, the pre-textum realized through the reception, the horizon-change (Jauss), and the plotting event of H. White. I feel that my conception about the optimal distance (which regards the reader getting too close to the work or remaining out of its range as unsuitable for dialogue) fit table in with the illusion-denial conception of P. Ricoeur, which integrates the thoughts of Iser and Jauss. According to my conception, the range is a sufficiently wide zone, which is narrower in the case of some works, and wider in the case of others. This means that both those who remain somewhat closer to the illusion and those who remain close to denial have the chance for a dialogue. In other words: the reader has a sufficiently wide space for motion, a sufficiently serious possibility.

            Besides, I also attempt to apply the I-You model of M. Buber, then the conception of cult-research concerning the weakly and strongly dialogical reading to the reception of the literary work, and finally, I even compare some psychological conceptions (the certainty and uncertainty of novelty, the mental lexicon, the simultaneous consciousness and unconsciousness of the reading, the self-directed and desire-directed reading) with my experiences in empirical research of literature-sociology.

            From among the theories which novelize the relationship between the literary work and the reader (that is, the reception of the work), my empirical research unambiguously verifies the dialogical conceptions, which account for „both parts”.

3.2. The Dimensions of Reception

            In the second chapter of the book I take the various dimensions of reception into account – from the direct antecedents of the reception to the re-reading. Doing so, I take the opportunity to test newer hypotheses. I look for an answer to the question of when the reception begins and when it ends, and how much the selection of the reading and the decision made in its favor is involved in the former. I demonstrate that the decision goes hand in hand with the selection of the reading strategy, that is, „how we take”, as what, and in which code-system we wish to read the given reading. For this, readers possess sets of strategies (set of stereotypes) with a very different extent and composition. I make the following assumptions perceptible: the reception happens in our life, an important part of which is our world of experiences, and our world of reading-experiences is an important part of the latter. To take a literary work into our hands (to decide to read it), and to read it can be an organical part of our life-story (identity-story, self-knowledge, self-interpretation). The antecedent of reading involves our whole previous life.

            After this I examine the process of reading: the development of reading strategy, and on the basis of my empirical research (first of all of the analysis of the reception of the A „Mester és Margarita”, the „Iskola a határon” and the „Sorstalanság”), the development of the expectations of the readers and the effect within it. I suppose - in contrast to the assumptions of H. R. Jauss - that the reader interprets even during the first reading, from the first sentences. I think that the results of our researches that examine the process of reading do support the hypothesis about the dialogical model of reception, which has been hoped to be justified in the first chapter. The reading process can also be conceived as a test of the reading strategy: whether it is suitable for the work, or whether we should use (this might be done repeatedly) an other strategy, or its essential transformation, or, perhaps - at least for the reader - the development of a new strategy. Either the constitution of the reading strategy, but rather changing this strategy to a more suitable one, or the combination of more available strategies, or the development of a new strategy – these can all be conceived as the result of the reading, just like the effect or the interpretation of the work.

            According to the spirit of the illusion-denial model of Ricoeur, which is verified by my empirical research as well, I distinguish developments in the reading strategy (connected to the given reading), which are wished and hoped from that ones, which seems to be made probable and calculable.

            I try to prove that the unconcern-concern and the negative and positive reception (and effect) are different dimensions. I justify and improve the hypothesis of Péter Józsa concerning the relative consensus of the emotional effect. I make it sensible that the change made by the literary work in the reader - from the change of single attitudes (or just their reinforcement) to the catharsis, interpreted as an emotional-intellectual shock - can be grasped by the proper method and can also be measured within certain limits. I am convinced that the map developed about the literary taste of the home reading public will become more precise in several relations by the initiation of the experience-circles and experience-configurations, and that the home literary „taste-map” can be significantly completed by mapping the formers”.

            By examining the effect of literary works - and within it the content, the structure, the strength, the deepness and the direction of the effect - I try to answer such questions by means of the results of my empirical researches, as: in what extent is the literary work able to change reading attitudes and producing catharsis (shocking and reinforcing effect within it). And finally, I try to track one of the white unknown domains of reading-research: the temporal development of the effect.

            I also suppose that we experience a larger difference in the interpretation - at least, during the dialogue between the Hungarian readers and the novels with artistic value - than in the affective reception. I verify the other hypothesis of Józsa as well, according to which the interpretation of the details is the less the condition of the embracing interpretation in the case of novels than in the case of films.

            According to N. Frye, "the agreement, which the reader signs at the beginning of the reading is convention", although this agreement can not be signed in all cases, since a part of the readers is not familiar with the convention represented by the given work, only with some more or less similar one, however, of course, being familiar with the given convention also does not even guarantee the reception: first, because the work representing artistic value is always individual and original within the convention, and second, the topics may be foreign, astonishing, repulsive for the recipient. Thus even for the "signing reader" is partly valid, that Ferenc Ferenc psychiatrist speaks about, that the reception of the literary work is such a game, in which „we neither know, what is the card, and nor know, which rules are validated, rather we constitute this rules en route, and change them as well".

            We can speak about not only the open work, but also about open (elastic) reading strategies and interpreting schemes, which indispensably involve the „justified self-defense” against the complexity of the work, the reduction by the reader, which we do not regard simply as failure, primitive or wrong reading, low-level reception. First, because every reader reduces. Second, because reduction has degrees. Third, because a reducing reading can be deeper than a more complex one. Forth, because there can be reductions within an all in all subtle interpretation. In other words: we can attach reducing reading to certain layers of the work, and subtle reading to other ones. And when we regard a reading as subtle[8], then we regard it subtle compared to the prevalent schemes, and not in the sparkle of the lighthouse of a norm. My book provides several proofs for all of this, and strives to sketch the typology of the reductions of readers as well.

            By examining the re-reading of the literary works I try to modify the conception related to the re-reading of the literary work of H. R. Jauss, and to prove the coming about of the reading possessing an „added value” in the re-reading on the basis of „everyone who has something will get something”.

            I take into account the factors which are necessary for characterizing the different levels of reception, and on this ground I elaborate a reception-typologies – more effectively applicable than those used before – which are not normative on the one hand, and consider both parts participating in the dialogue, on the other. One of these typologies reckons with the different levels (factual, naive, rationalizing, analytical and synthetical) of the reception, although it distinguishes readings with different directions (philosophical and philosophizing, psychological and psychologizing, ethic and moralizing, sociological and sociologizing, religious and pious) at the same levels.

3.3. Factors Influencing Reception

When we speak about factors forming the reception, we can not speak about  determining, but only influencing factors, the role and effect of which are different in different social and cultural spaces (and ages), in the cases of the individual works (authors, reading-types) and the individual readers (reader-groups and -strata). According to E. Scholes although the reader always stands out of the given text, but never out of the net of textuality, in which she/he maintains her/his cultural being, in which all the texts meet their echoes. This would mean, that the reader of the literary work either she/he reads the novel „from outside” or „from inside”, always do so within the text-system of her/his previous readings, in which  the new works also seem some familiar, and by means of which the reader can feel her/himself intimate in some extent as the reader of new works as well. However, not only the context of the previously read texts surround the reader (and support or just hinder her/him in the reception of the given work), but also the context of different contexts, among which we can find the cultural context (convention of communication), the situational context (that is, the intention and perspective of the reader) and the personal context (the knowledge, the attitudes and the affects of the reader) (Rickheit, Schnotz, Strohner).

            What are the things which form the reading disposition and reading strategy woven from intellectual, emotional and stimulating-stimulating threads? Undoubtedly, the physique, the genetic program, the psyche, the personality of the reader. It is an important part of our reading skill, how we can concentrate, and how we are capable of psychophysical activity, which is – in a significant part – a physical, nervous ability. That is, the psychophysical dimension of our health also influences the reading to a great extent. This is proved by those healing processes, when the difficulties occurring in speech and reading are healed through the correction of moving. What we call taste is disposition like as well, but the aesthetic sensitivity – which is partly our innate quality - is a significant element of it as well. Naturally, our taste and our whole reading disposition are strongly determined by our social, economical and cultural position, our schooling, intellectual grounding, education (that is, how we are in a reflective, conscious relationship with ourselves, with our partners, with the society, the nature and the transcendent), our way of life, values and world-view, our maturity and experience of life.

            In the fourth part of my book I examine the conditions of reception and the role and weight of the factors, which influence the reception. In this part, I try to prove that money and power playing a decisive role in the possessing of cultural goods, play only an indirect role in the reception of the literary work, moreover, that in some dimensions of reception the habit of mind, the values, the world-view, the positive or negative disposition connected to literature, the knowledge and usage of literary code-systems[9] (literary languages), the sensibility for art, and sometimes also the belonging to a generation have stronger influencing power – at least in the case of certain works – than the educational qualification or social position of a person, which are thought to be the strongest by professional public opinion. I also justify the assumption, that the various factors which influence the reception play role in the different dimensions of reception to a different extent, for example, that the world-view and the values influence the interpretation stronger than the effect. I also assume that the different factors can enforce or weaken the effect of each other. I do not think, for example, that religiousness in itself would mean a serious advantage in the acceptance and reception of transcendent works, but I suppose that the innermost (regarding religion not as an instrument, but as an aim) and not-dogmatic religiousness accompanied by proper literary language skills can increase the chance of acceptance and of subtle interpretation to a great extent.

            When I separate the factors influencing the reception of the literary work as outer and inner, as literary and outside of the world of literature, I also emphasize (and prove) their effect on each other, such as the interaction of the attitude and the values, and that of persons and groups, which means reference from the viewpoint of reading literature.

For from the supply of readings - and even partly from the syllabus as well -  that occurs in our visual field, which we are „customers” of, open to and sensitive about, which the inner factors „assign”. Our friends offering us readings and helping in evaluating and interpreting them in a certain sense were born from our disposition, belong to our lifeworld.

            From among the outside factors - following in the footsteps of my master, Péter Józsa - I demonstrate the role of the linguistic-cultural context on the basis of my own international comparing investigations: in the effects occurring in the emotions of the consensus spreading across borders, and, besides, not only in the interpretation, but even in the direction and depth of the effect.

            I verify the reality of the reading strategy-systems, which I have revealed, by confronting the hypothetic reading strategies with the real values of readers. My researches reinforce that experience of the mediator of literature, that the higher education and the bigger cultural capital, as well as the values supporting the openness outwards (to the world) and the becoming immersed inwards, and the innermost religiousness usually accompanies with a reading of wider extent, with an experience-structure of greater value, with a powerful activity of the reader, with a higher literary taste, with the deeper effect of works of artistic value and with a more subtle and original interpretation.

            I demonstrate that the cultural block hypothesis of Józsa with certain modifications can be verified, even if not in the form of groups in the dimension of social strata, but in that of smaller ones, which can be called „tendencial”, and which also function in the world of reading, although they do not totally equal the communities of the literary theory. I reinforce the legality of the skepticism of György C. Kálmán concerning the validity of opposing the amateur and professional reader, when I prove, that in the interpretation of single works the achievement of some amateur reader can turn out to be equivalent with the interpretation of professional readers even before an independent jury.

I prove with rich and convincing facts that one can step in through  many kinds of gates into the „maze” of the work, however in the case of different types of reading strategies with certain direction help more the subtle interpretation. I suppose it is no accident that elements, which start out of facts, which are analytical, inductive sociological and/or psychological are occurring simultaneously in the most of the subtle interpretations with elements, which are abstracting, summarizing, deductive ethical, philosophical-religious, and this similarly refers to a complex reading strategy.


3.4. Looking out

             We know one and another, even though not enough, about this party, that is about the recipient - maybe she/he is staying outside, being the concerned or the unconcerned, be the one reciting the plot, reduced and articulating the interpretation, the psyhologizing and the psychological, the moralizing and the ethic, the „philozophizing” and the philosophical, religious and formulating religious interpretation, the factual, the naive, the rational and who reads through analyzing-summarizing glasses -, and I hope this book also has contributed to this knowledge. I feel as such contribution[10] (by any chance invention[11])  the following:

- the reader getting too close to and remaining too far from the work;

- the application of strategies used in the case of works happening in the later past instead of that reading strategies, which do not provide proper overlooking the recent past;

- the desire-directed and the reality-directed strategies, and their mixture;

- the „approval” customs, evaluation scales differing upon social strata;

- the experience-configurations and experience-circles;

- the strategies and typologies of reception and interpretation;

- the reduction-types;

- the reinforcing factors and the obstacles of the dialogue between the reader and the work;

- the first steps of getting acquainted more precisely with the phenomena of re-reading;

- the conditions and obstacles of the proper reception;

- the comparing of professional and amateur readers;

- the empirical proving of the principles: „everyone who has something will get something” and „the one who has not enough will also get something”;

- the proving of the principle, that in the case of proper - partly sociological - conditions the work possessing aesthetic efficiency can mobilize considerable forces (abilities, activity) in the recipient;

- the influencing function of different strength of taste and values in the selection, effect and interpretation of the work.

All this makes clear how little we know − thanks the customers, the masters, the supporters, the ones doing the minor labors and the critics − we have known a lot, thus the circumference of the circle of our disknowledge about the theme could have been increased together with the area of the circle of our knowledge about the recipient and the reception of the literary work. I hope, my dissertation bears witness to this, not only by its flimsy deficiencies, but by those „empty spaces”, which, according to my hopes, will direct the researchers undertaking to answer the questions, which remained open. And there are plenty of such questions. To mention only a few ones:

- How are our findings about the reader of the prose proved to be true to the reader of the lyre?

- How are our findings about the reading of the so-called „high literature” proved to be true to the popular mass-readings?

- How does our reading-history constitute a part of our life history, and our literary experiences a part of our narratives?

- How do our researches prove the unity of the multidimensional personality or just the theory of the postmodern multiplied (kernel-lost) self? (Whether is that the same self, who reads the works, or the different works choose, make jump out other and other selves of us?)

- Is the reader indeed able to go beyond the bounds and to become a co-author, or she/he is capable only of making different grades of reduction?

- Can the „passive” literary work replace the „active” God, who initiates, addresses, sweeps away in dialogue in the religious dialogue?

- If irony removes the reader off the surface, and direct the reading to the field of intellect instead of the of desire, forces the reader to reflect, than De Man is probably right when he says that irony is the most important reading form, and whether, however, also results from this is that the examination of the reading relationship concerning irony may be one of the main tasks of literary sociology?


[1] This occurs more frequently in mass culture than in the so called „high literature”.

[2] I myself made an exception only on one occasion, when we examined the reception of the novel „Kenguru” by Bulcsu Bertha together with Katalin Kovács.

[3] Since I had no way of re-categorizing - and converting into data adequate to the dialogical  - the original answers.

[4] And this remained even in the nineties in several strata of the population, since the decrease of the number of the constant readers and the volume of the reading of literature did not go together with the shortening of literary readings, that is, the dominance of the novel remained among the literary readings.

[5] I have examined within the framework of a social psychological experiment, whether the literary taste is pliable.

[6] At this time, both the Hungarian research of reading (and stressed within it, the empirical research of the sociology of literature) - as far as the already rusting, but still functioning Iron Curtain made it possible - acquired international acknowledgement of serious degree, and the reception-research in the sociology of literate (and in the psychology of literate thanks to László Halász) is a recognized hungaricum by today.

[7] My „literature-sociological” researches examining the relationship between the literary work and the reader were also of social psychological approach besides the sociological in nearly all cases, since the role, the expectation, the taste, the behavior and the habit of the reader and the reception and effect of the literary reading is at least as a social psychological as a sociological phenomenon. For the term „literature-social psychological” is not usual beside the terms „literature-psychological” and „literature-sociological”, when I use the term „literature-sociological” in this book - dealing with the reception of the literary work -, it always must be understood as the mixture of the social psychological and sociological approaches.

[8] I will use this term - even if it may suggest normativity to a part of my readers -, because I find it more fortunate than the attributes „deep”, „proper”, „complex”, „elaborated”.

[9] This is, of course, partly the result of uneducated ness, but it is at least to the same extent connected with the disposition – independent from educated ness to a certain extent – and the partly inherited sensibility as well.

[10] I only list those ones, which had been ranked among this category also by the readers of my manuscript.

[11] At least, several of the readers of my manuscript used this term.



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