Gunther Martens (Gent): Can We Predict Literary Judgment? A Corpus Study of the Bachmann Literary 'Casting Show' via Off- and Online Backchannels


Monday, May 22, 2017, 4:00pm


In this talk, I present preliminary results of an empirical study based on a corpus collecting the audience participation in the Klagenfurt-based Bachmann-Wettbewerb. The aim of the project is to compare professional literary criticism (broadcast live on TV) with the ca. 750 "lay critics" engaging with the event via the hashtag #tddl. As such, the talk is devoted to methods of formalizing the corpus, including the content and style of the the (semi-)narrative texts at the centre of the contest. Similar studies of the dynamics of literary prizes have been undertaken recently (Childress/Rawlings/Moeran 2017; Mehling/Rehfeldt 2016, Bachmann-Stein/Stein 2016; Pouly 2016). When evaluated from the angle of narratology and stylistics, however, current sociological research of literary taste is geared towards rather crude and clichéd aspects of literary communication (contextual metadata or, if text-based at all, coarse-grained thematics at best). After a survey of existing approaches, I will tackle the following questions: To what extent is it possible to formalize and 'read from a distance' elements of literary style? To what extent do text-internal features weigh up against other parameters such as publisher prestige and authorial self-fashioning? What is the epistemological status of "automatische Literaturkritik" vis-à-vis the consensus, deeply engrained in the field itself, that literary judgment is highly personal and a matter of experience and hard-won authority. I will also point towards pathways of future research making use of digital tools that are currently being developed in the field of Digital Humanities.


Bachmann-Stein, Andrea, and Stein, Stephan. 2016. “Demokratisierung der Literaturkritik im World Wide Web? Zum Wandel kommunikativer Praktiken am Beispiel von Laienrezensionen.” In Musterwandel - Sortenwandel: Aktuelle Tendenzen der diachronen Text(sorten)linguistik, edited by Stefan Hauser, Ulla Kleinberger, and Kersten Roth. Peter Lang.

Childress, Clayton, Craig M. Rawlings, and Brian Moeran. 2017. “Publishers, Authors, and Texts: The Process of Cultural Consecration in Prize Evaluation.” Poetics 60 (February): 48–61. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.10.001.

Mehling, and Rehfeldt. 2016. “Wie bewerten Laienrezensenten? Ausgewählte Ergebnisse einer inhaltsanalytischen Studie.” In Was wir lesen sollen: Kanon und literarische Wertung am Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts, edited by Stefan Neuhaus and Uta Schaffers. Würzburg: Königshausen u. Neumann.

Pouly, Marie-Pierre. 2016. “Playing Both Sides of the Field: The Anatomy of a ‘quality’ Bestseller.” Poetics 59 (December): 20–34. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2016.02.002.


About Gunther Martens

Gunther Martens is a Research Professor of German Literature and a member of the Literature Department at Ghent University. He has a Master in "Germanic Languages" (Ghent University, 1998) and a Master in Literary Studies (Antwerp University, 1999). In the period 2006-2010 he was Professor of Literary Theory at the Free University of Brussels and Professor of German Literature at Antwerp University. Gunther Martens is the author of a widely noted monograph on rhetorical and narratological aspects of German literary modernism. He is the editor of several other books. Martens has written articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Style, Modern Austrian Literature, Recherches Germaniques, Orbis Litterarum, Neophilologus, Language and Literature and others. He has also contributed a large number of invited essays to edited collections as well as to the International Comparative Literature Association's volume on Modernism. In 2005, he was visiting scholar at the University of Hamburg, working under the auspices of the Research Group Narratology. In 2007-2008, Martens was a visiting professor at VUB and at UCL (Louvain-la-Neuve). He is President of the European Narratology Network and executive committee member of the Internationale Robert Musil Gesellschaft. He is co-director of the Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities.