Following the strong program in cultural sociology, I propose a “literary turn” to recognize literary texts “as relatively autonomous cultural entities” with their own agency. This article is part of a larger project connecting cultural sociology with the sociology of literature and literary theory to develop a strong program in the sociology of literature. Instead of approaching literary fiction as an object of analysis, sociology and literature can contribute to social knowledge in a symmetrical way, where fiction is not devalued vis-à-vis social scientific inquiry. Just the opposite: recognizing the specificities of literary communication, we can access textures of social life that are only hardly graspable by sociology. A crucial step is to examine how social knowledge comes into existence when reading a fictional text. Embracing the structural aesthetics of Roman Jakobson and Jan Mukařovský, I modify the concept of iconicity to capture the iconic experience of reading through which literature mediates social experience that is iconic of broader social phenomena. I demonstrate my approach by analyzing the Czech novel Bliss was it in Bohemia by Michal Viewegh (Bliss was it in Bohemia, Jantar Publishing, London, 1992). Building on social aesthetics, I discuss implications of my model for sociological theory, textual representation, and sociological explanation in general.
American Journal of Cultural Sociology – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 8, 2021