Methods of the Analysis of Literary Texts
In 2010, Vera and Ansgar Nuenning published the commendable volume on “Methods of Textual Analysis in Literary and Cultural Studies,” as it was titled, with Metzler Publishers. This volume responded to the surprising but quite accurate finding that in literary studies the explicit naming and reflection of methodological procedures of textual analysis is widely neglected, if not entirely missing. Now they have published an updated version of this methodological volume in English with Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, taking into account the fact that most of the methodological approaches as well as the authors of the contributions come from English and American Studies.
Nuenning, Vera & Nuenning, Ansgar (eds.) Methods of Textual Analysis in Literary Studies. Approaches, Basics, Model Interpretations. Trier: WVT. 197-227.
Furthermore, the literary sample analyses that are part of all contributions are all from Anglophone literatures. The volume presents a wide range of analytical methods, from hermeneutic and new historicist approaches to feminist, narratological, or postcolonial methods of analysis, and many others. My own contribution concerns a standard challenge in dealing with all literary texts that are culturally or historically distant and not easily accessible to full understanding and therrefore require systematic contextualization. The procedure suggested in this chapter is wide reading, i.e., reading literary texts in a larger textual and discursive field so that meanings, allusions, evaluations, and positionings can be discerned and traced in the literary text.
Wolfgang Hallet (2020). Close Reading and Wide Reading. Analyzing the Cultural Dimension of Literary Texts. In: Nuenning, Vera & Nuenning, Ansgar (eds.) Methods of Textual Analysis in Literary Studies. Approaches, Basics, Model Interpretations. Trier: WVT. 197-227.
Semiotic and generic forms in the novel
In 2017, Caroline Levines, in her programmatic book Forms. Whole, Rhythm Hierarchy, Network (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton UP), she presented a rehabilitation of form and a plea for form-oriented analytical procedures. Inspired primarily by this advance, literary scholars Elisbateh Kovach, Ansgar Nuenning, and Imke Polland have demonstrated the great potential of new formalist approaches for new interpretations and novel ways of looking at literary works in a volume on literary and cultural studies. For a more detailed insight, go to the table of contents here.
In my contribution, I use the example of NW by Zadie Smith (2012) to trace the ways in which a novel can be understood as a syntagm and network of various semiotically generated forms of interaction, i.e., e.g., dialogues, narratives, telephone conversations, chat messages, and many forms more. This generic and semiotic formal analysis is able to capture the cultural fields of interaction and cultural practices of the agents in the novel more precisely and make them more recognizable.
Wolfgang Hallet (2021). The cultural and epistemological power of forms in the novel. In: Kovach, Elisabeth, Nünning; Ansgar & Polland, Imke (eds.). Forms at Work: New Formalist Approaches in the Study of Literature, Culture and Media. Trier: WVT. 87-104.
Cognition, literature, and the arts
As a scholar of teaching literature, I have long been concerned with the cognitive constructions that are operative, but also required, in understanding literary texts. After all, all literary forms are also ways of structuring the world cognitively. Now my Lisbon colleague, the literary and cultural studies scholar Peter Hanenberg, and I have succeeded in bringing together in one volume experts from a wide variety of disciplines who research the cognitive performances and implications of literary and narrative texts (Peter Hanenberg, Katja Mellmann, Vera Nuenning, Susanne Reichl), but also of music (Per Age Brandt, Elisheva Rigbi) and the fine arts (Ana Margarida Abrantes). That cognitive neuroscience offers a new view of being human and of our notions of culture is outlined by Alexandre Castro-Caldas in his paper “Is Culture Exclusively Human?”
Peter Hanenberg & Wolfgang Hallet (eds.) (2021). Cognition, Culture, and the Arts. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Narrating, Understanding, and Reading. Berlin et al.: Lang.