Caroline Kutsch: "What Do Readers Actually Experience? A Qualitative Study on the Dimensions of Experientiality"

Monday, January 13, 2020, 6:30pm

This is the tenth talk of the lecture series.

This talk will take place in lecture hall H09 in C.A.R.L. (Claßenstraße 11).

Dieser Vortrag findet in Hörsaal H09 im C.A.R.L. (Claßenstraße 11) statt.


What is it that readers actually experience when they read fictional narratives? Caracciolo (2014) posits that through the interplay of several factors (text, readers’ experiential background, consciousness attribution and enactment) story-driven experiences – and thus experientiality as the sum of them – are created for the reader. However, Caracciolo does not go into much detail regarding the kinds of story-driven experiences that readers undergo.

In this talk, I present the methodology and results of a qualitative study aiming to shed light on the different dimensions of experientiality evoked in the reading process. By conducting twenty semi-structured interviews with avid readers, I investigated what readers actually consider to be story-driven experiences. The participants were first asked about their general reading preferences and about a story that they had had the most intense reading experience with in the past. They were then given another two short stories to read so that they could report on more immediate reading experiences. Through underlinings, participants also pointed out where in the text these occurred. The study found that readers reported frequently on experiences of absorption (e.g. Gerrig 1993, Green & Brock 2000, Kuijpers et al. 2014), and on the ways in which the stories activated and restructured their experiential backgrounds. Thus, I provide a detailed account of the interview procedure and the categories found in the analysis of the collected data, i.e. the dimensions of experientiality that readers described. Finally, I incorporate these empirical findings into my revised model of experientiality.