New Research Project at CCL


The former „Books on Screen“ – Team acquired funding for their new project „Listening to Literature: Experiencing Literary Audiobooks“, which started in January this year and will research auditory reception of literary consumption!

The first encounter with literature in a person's life takes place in childhood when listening to stories and in situations of reading aloud. But not only in personal development, but also historically, listening to stories forms the beginning of the engagement with literature and the silent reading of books as the dominant practice only follows much later. Auditory reception has always been an important form of literary consumption, but in the 21st century, listening to literature, particularly in the form of audiobooks, has once again become a widespread activity. However, despite their popularity, audiobooks are often credited with being a shallow and less demanding alternative to reading and cannot replace reading the printed book. Since there is still very little empirical research on listening to literature, it seems important to thoroughly examine the specific practices and experiences of listening to literary audiobooks and to compare them with traditional print reading.

The main research question of the project is therefore: Are there any (measurable) differences if the same literary narrative is read in print or listened to in the form of an audiobook? This regards more specifically crucial dimensions of the literary experience such as (1) text comprehension, (2) aesthetic emotions, (3) identification and engagement with narrative characters, and (4) immersion in the narrated world? Furthermore, we question if possible differences depend on specific narrative techniques or on the surroundings and the context in which the literary text is received. Due to the lack of empirical studies on audiobook listening, especially with a focus on literary texts, the project uses a mixed-methods approach to explore the addressed phenomena in as many ways as possible. The focus is on two extensive experiments that compare listening with reading and each focus on different aspects of the literary experience. In order to gain an even deeper understanding of the results of the experiments, a series of focus group interviews will be conducted.

The transdisciplinary conception of our project combines theoretical and methodological approaches from literary studies, communication science and media psychology based on a multidisciplinary research team from the Department of German Studies and the Department of Communication, both University of Vienna. Hajo Boomgaarden and Günther Stocker co-lead the project, Lukas Kosch and Annika Schwabe are associated researchers.

The project is funded by the FWF.

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