Abstract

Against the long consensus in literary studies that differences in identity influence what, how, and why we read fiction, I argue that the kinds of literary experiences and feelings often valued and promoted by educators and literary scholars--deep, meditative reading, introspection, sensuous aesthetic apperception, and using literature to develop one’s identity--will be differentially sought and successfully developed in individuals moderately high in a heritable personality dimension called openness to experience. While literature is not the sole origin of openness-typical experiences and feelings, research in personality should make us wonder just how far literature can go in producing them. In addition to providing teachers and scholars with a more empirically defensible vocabulary for discussing human individuality, a more robust conception of personality, grounded in evolved dispositions and sensitive to cultural influences, can help literature teachers develop a more complex and sympathetic understanding of how different fictions are likely to satisfy and frustrate different readers’ emotional and cognitive needs.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-7809
Print ISSN
0021-8510
Pages
pp. 64-85
Launched on MUSE
2014-05-04
Open Access
No
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