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Brian Johnsrud: "Using Digital Methods to Find 'the Reader' in Literary Criticism and the Reception of Contemporary Literature"

In literary studies, we often make assumptions about how texts and cultural objects are received by contemporary readers. But our evidence for these claims is typically anecdotal or based on extrapolations from a singular case-study: our own scholarly close readings. But can we assume that different readers with varying types of expertise receive texts in the same way as literary scholars?
This project analyzed major literary journal articles published over a decade, 2004-2014, to see how "the reader" is imagined in contemporary literary studies. Based on these results, I suggest a new approach for making empirical claims about literary reception using Reader Study (, an open-source and web-based research platform to track how recruited study participants read and respond to literary texts.
This talk ends with the results of the first pilot of Reader Study, based on twenty-four first-time readers (ages 18-35) of the post-9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. This talk shares the results of this case study, along with the specific methodology and variety of insights that can be yielded from this new, reader-informed approach to literary criticism.
Brian Johnsrud co-directs the Poetic Media Lab, a digital humanities research lab at Stanford University. He holds three masters degrees (in media studies, literature, and anthropology) and an interdisciplinary PhD in Modern Thought and Literature. His research focuses on the reception of contemporary narratives across media.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017. 12:00 PM


Bldg. 160, Rm. 433A


Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA)




Lunch will be served.