Jan Vana 1
  • 1 Masaryk University, Joštova 218/10, Brno, 602 00, Czech Republic

Fiction and Social Knowledge: Towards a Strong Program in the Sociology of Literature

2020, vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 14–35 [issue contents]
Following the strong program in cultural sociology, I propose a strong program in the sociology of liter-ature, which treats literary pieces rightly as relatively autonomous cultural entities and “independent var-iables”. To outline the epistemological foundations of the new research program, I compare how social knowledge comes into existence through the sociological text and the text of literary fiction. I discuss the representation of social reality in interpretive research, with Isaac Reed’s book Interpretation and Social Knowledge as a starting point. To claim literary autonomy, I outline some of the aspects which social the-ory shares with literary fiction. I am mainly interested in how social theory and literary fiction mediate social knowledge to their readers via the aesthetic experience. I identify two main categories of social knowledge mediated by literature: existential understanding and Zeitgeist. Discussing the sociological treatment of several novels, I look at how these two categories intertwine and support each other to create colorful, sensitive, but also robust and deep social knowledge, which condenses aesthetic, existential, and non-discursive aspects of social experience together with the “big picture” of whole societies. I argue that only by overcoming the often-assumed inferiority of literature in sociological research can sociology real-ize its full potential in understanding the meanings of social life.
Citation: Vana J. (2020) Fiction and Social Knowledge: Towards a Strong Program in the Sociology of Literature [Художественная литература и социальное знание: на пути к «сильной программе» в социологии литературы]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 19, no 4, pp. 14-35
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