Podcast: "Literature, Cognition and Emotions"

Join the LCE podcast for a series of conversations on how literature shapes our thoughts and feelings.

Mosaic tiles showing a pattern of circles and waves

Illustration: Colourbox

Literature shapes our thoughts and feelings. But how do signs on a page have an effect on our minds? And why does fiction sometimes feel more real than the world around us? Members from the Literature, Cognition and Emotions group discuss their research with Karin Kukkonen.

Podcast production: Vera Syrovatskaya. Sound engineer: Joakim Magnus Taraldsen (USIT). Original jingle composition: Jonas Meyer.

Subscribe to the LCE podcast

Subscribe iTunesSubscribe Spotify


  • 5. Karin Kukkonen: Probability Designs
    Aug. 5, 2022

    How do readers respond to, experience, and make sense of a literary text? In this podcast, Karin Kukkonen, professor in comparative literature at the University of Oslo, speaks to Stijn Vervaet about how a text's probability design ties in with the reading process. She explains how literary texts provide cues and triggers that not only lure readers into having certain expectations but also constantly invite them to readjust these expectations. How do we as readers, then, navigate a literary text on the level of plot, style, and genre? Listen as Karin Kukkonen discusses how readers involve their bodies when reading and how the reading process is in essence a non-linear activity. As readers, we move back and forth between periods of profound immersion and moments of absent-mindedness that allow us to "watch ourselves thinking." They also talk about how the literary text works to extend cognitive processes happening in our brain.

    Karin’s reading recommendation: Anne Weber, Annette, ein Heldinnenepos. Berlin: Matthes und Seitz.

    Post-production: Eivind Rutle

    Written alternative

  • 4. Olivia Fialho: Transformative Reading
    July 22, 2022

    Can reading fiction change us? In this podcast, Olivia Fialho, postdoctoral researcher at the Huyghens-ING/KNAW, Lecturer of Comparative Literature at Utrecht University, and Affiliated Researcher at LCE, explains the concept of transformative reading, from its roots in Aristotle through Russian Formalism, Phenomenology, and Reader Response theories. In conversation with Stijn Vervaet, she discusses how empirical methods can be used to study the interactions between reader and text. She addresses what devices literary texts use to attract and direct readers' attention, and what neurocognitive studies can tell us about how we read and how reading can affect us. Listen as Olivia uncovers how transformative reading has resulted in applications well beyond the field of literary studies and could potentially lead to radically different ways of teaching literature.

    Olivia’s reading recommendation: Voltaire: Candide, or the Optimist. ( Candide, ou l’optimisme.)

    Post-production: Eivind Rutle

    Written alternative

  • 3. Alexandra Effe: Autofiction from a Cognitive Perspective
    July 8, 2022

    Life writing continues to be popular, both judging by the titles sold in bookshops and the books that receive literary awards. With many recent life-writing texts, bookshops arguably have a hard time, if they want to shelve them within distinct categories of fiction and non-fiction. Alexandra Effe, a postdoctoral research fellow at LCE (UiO), investigates how, and to which effects, literary narratives combine fictional and factual modes. Listen to her discussing the concept of autofiction in conversation with Stijn Vervaet. In particular, they talk about how the concept allows us to develop new perspectives on life-writing experiments throughout literary history.

    Do you think you would read differently depending on whether you take a text to be a short story or a newspaper article? Do you believe that texts can challenge and change what feels true?

    Post-production: Eivind Rutle

    Written alternative

  • 2. Natalia Igl: The Materiality and Multimodality of Literature
    June 24, 2022

    What is a multimodal novel? And why is the genre on its return in our digital age? How should we understand the notion of the embodied reader? And why bother about rhythm and rhyme in the 21st century?

    Books are more than just neutral containers of narratives; they are material, palpable objects, often multimodal in nature. In this podcast, Natalia Igl, associate researcher at LCE and Marie Skłodowska-Curie recent postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oslo, discusses how and why the material and multimodal aspects of a book, literary journal, or poem affect our readerly experience perhaps more than we suspect. In a conversation with Stijn Vervaet, she explains how a literary work’s multimodality and materiality operates, and how we read with our bodies.

    This work has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska Curie grant agreement No 794549.

    Post-production: Eivind Rutle

    Written alternative

  • 1. Yasemin Hacıoğlu: Thinking through Poems in Romantic-Era Novels
    June 13, 2022

    The Gothic novel calls to mind abandoned castles, ghosts and vampires. But perhaps it is time to look beyond these familiar tropes. Often taking their inspiration from Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), there exists an interesting and understudied corpus of late eighteenth-century popular gothic fiction written by women authors. Writing against the increasing conservatism in British politics in the wake of the French Revolution, these authors often chose female protagonists fond of composing poems. These poems appear to be marginal, but they in fact suggest a profound rethinking of female agency and emotions. Listen to how Yasemin Nurcan Hacıoğlu, senior lecturer in English at NTNU and associate researcher with LCE, in conversation with Stijn Vervaet, discusses writing as a form of extended cognition and as a method of constructing radically unconventional feelings and decisions. Follow their journey from eighteenth-century England all the way to post-Napoleonic Russia.

    Post-production: HF:Studio – Baoxin Long & Bernt Brundtland

    Written alternative

  • 6. Rolf Reber: Literature and the Artful Mind
    Mar. 18, 2021

    Rolf Reber, Professor in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Oslo, speaks to Karin Kukkonen about reading and emotional engagement, and the ways in which readers find pleasure in literature through “critical feeling.” Listen as Rolf Reber describes how “the artful mind” appreciates literature on multiple levels, and why knowledge about a book’s composition and the time and place when it was written can make reading more enjoyable. They also discuss whether stories need to be true in order to affect readers emotionally and what psychology can learn from literature about emotions.

    The reading recommendation from Rolf Reber:

    Adalbert Stifter, Indian Summer (external link). Translated from German by Wendell Frye.

    Rolf Reber, Critical Feeling: How to use Feelings Strategically (external link)

  • 5. Stephan Guth: The Literature of the Middle East
    Mar. 4, 2021

    Stephan Guth, Professor of Middle East Studies, talks to Karin Kukkonen about the Arab novel in the context of social and political reform in Middle East countries. He explains how reading novels could “teach” people how to feel in modern society, why historical romance novels were considered useful entertainment in the 19th century, and discusses the function of emotional storytelling in the Middle East’s confrontation with Europe.

    The reading recommendation from Stephan Guth:

    Jurji Zaydan, 1914. Tree of Pearls, Queen of Egypt (external link). Translated by Samah Selim.

    Tayeb Salih, 1966. Season of Migration to the North (external link). Translated by Denys Johnson Davies.

    Stephan Guth is editor of Literary Visions of the Middle East.

  • 4. Stijn Vervaet: Cultural Memory in Balkan Literature
    Feb. 18, 2021

    Stijn Vervaet is Associate Professor in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and Balkan Studies at the University of Oslo. In this episode, he joins Karin Kukkonen in a conversation about constructions of cultural memory and visions of the past in the Balkan literary tradition. They talk about witnessing, counter-memory, testimony and survival accounts, and discuss how authors make use of the imaginative and symbolic dimensions of literature in order to reconstruct alternative narratives of the past.

    The reading recommendation from Stijn Vervaet:

    Danilo Kiš, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich. Norwegian translation: Et gravmæle for Boris Davidovitsj (external link).

    Daša Drndić, Trieste. Translation: Trieste - dokumentarisk roman (external link)

    Stijn Vervaet’s book Holocaust, War and Transnational Memory (external link) examines Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav Holocaust fiction in its intersections with other memories of extreme violence, such as the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

  • 3. Beate Seibt: Kama Muta or The Feeling of Being Moved
    Feb. 4, 2021

    We often express the feeling of ‘being moved’ in everyday language ­– but what does it mean? Beate Seibt, Professor in Social Psychology at The University of Oslo, has developed a scientific framework for the study of ‘kama muta’ or, the experience of being moved. In a conversation with Karin Kukkonen, she discusses how kama muta relates to both literature and our everyday lives. Can social media make us feel closer to others, and are we really ‘moved’ by cat videos? Why does reading fiction evoke such strong emotions?

    The reading recommendation from Beate Seibt:

    Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (external link)

  • 2. Halvor Eifring: The Power of the Wandering Mind
    Jan. 14, 2021

    Halvor Eifring, Professor of Chinese studies at the University of Oslo, joins Karin Kukkonen in a conversation about what mind-wandering and non-directive meditation have in common with literary reading. Learn more about the meditative dimension of long Chinese novels, and find out how to resist «weapons of mass distraction» in the modern world.

    The reading recommendation from Halvor Eifring:

    Cao Xueqin and Gao E, The Story of the Stone (external link)

    Learn more about Nondirective Meditation and mind wandering in Halvor Eifring's book: The Power of the Wandering Mind (external link).

  • 1. Reiko Abe Auestad: Emotions and Affect in Japanese Literature
    Dec. 14, 2020

    Does one feel differently in Japanese novels? When Western novels came to Japan, they brought with them new ways for telling about the self and new models of feeling. Reiko Abe Auestad, Professor of Japanese Studies, talks to Karin Kukkonen about this culture clash of emotions and affect.

    Reading recommendations:

    Natsume Soseki, Kokoro (trans. Ika Kaminka). Solum Bokvennen, 2004.

    Natsume Soseki, The Three-Cornered World (trans. Alan Turney). Peter Owen Publishers, 2011.

    Shikibu Murasaki, The Tale of Genji (trans. Dennis Washburn). Norton, 2015.

    Kaori Ekuni, Twinkle, Twinkle (trans. Emi Shimokawa). Vertical Inc., 2003

    Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "In a Bamboo Grove," in Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories (trans. Jay Rubin). Penguin Books, 2009.

    Haruki Murakami, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (trans. Jay Rubin). SD Books, 2012.

    Kawakami Mieko, Pupper og Egg (trans. Magne Tørring). Solum Bokvennen, 2013.

    Reiko Abe Auestad, "The Affect that Disorients Kokoro". U of Hawai'i P, 2019.

  • Welcome to Literature, Cognition and Emotions (LCE) Podcast
    Dec. 11, 2020

    In "Literature, Cognition and Emotions" podcast, Karin Kukkonen discusses topics on the edge of literature and psychology with colleagues from the LCE group. In the coming month you can hear how literature leads to new ways of feeling and new ways of conceiving the self, as the first episodes of our podcast will take you to Japan, China and the Balkans.


Published Dec. 11, 2020 11:07 AM - Last modified Aug. 29, 2022 10:08 AM