Workshop “Reader Engagement, Joint Attention, and New Materialism”

In what ways does literature make use of materiality and mediality to sometimes radically engage readers? And what role does the socio-cognitive phenomenon of joint attention play at this?

This 2-day workshop is aimed at researchers interested in questions of how literary texts engage their readers and what role the socio-cognitive phenomenon of ‘joint attention’ plays at that. Against the backdrop of the turn toward a ‘new materialism’ in literary studies, the workshop sheds light on texts of different genres that make use of literature’s material, performative, and multi-sensory qualities to – sometimes radically – engage their readers.

See the detailed workshop program for further information.

Materiality and social cognition

The more recent claim to take into account “the power of matter and the ways it materializes in our ordinary experiences” (Coole & Frost 2010: 1) put forth a perspectival shift toward a ‘new materialism’ in literary theory. Bringing together the materialist and the cognitive perspective, the workshop focuses on the notion of ‘joint attention’ as a highly fruitful but yet underrated addition to the existing analytical tool-kit. The term refers to “the ability to share attention to some object with another person and mutually recognize that the attention is shared” (Tobin 2010: 185). As a basic phenomenon regarding the ways we process and socially interact within our material environment, joint attention also plays a crucial role in how we engage with literature. Vice versa, the phenomenon of joint attention can explain how literary texts utilize our socio-cognitive dispositions to engage readers in complex though processes, (self-)observations and emotions. Against this backdrop, the workshop looks into phenomena of (simulated) joint attention to understand how the interplay of textual strategies and cognitive principles enables intensive forms of reader engagement – particularly with regard to the current turn toward materiality.

Guests are very welcome!

Please register for the workshop via e-mail ( by 15 February, especially if you would like to participate in the reading & working group sessions as well as the lunch provided by ILOS.


Natalia Igl and Karin Kukkonen
Tags: Cognitive Narratology, Multimodality, Social Cognition, Literature, Narrative theory
Published Dec. 18, 2018 12:25 PM - Last modified Mar. 4, 2019 2:03 PM