What does reading a book do to you?

A Strathclyde researcher is investigating the psychological impact that a story can have on a reader.

Deep emotional responses to fiction

Professor Nigel Fabb of the School of Humanities is exploring the profound psychological and emotional effect that reading can have on us. The professor is examining the ‘epiphanies’ that a piece of writing can produce and how they relate to the mind and the emotions. The study is breaking new ground, as there is no current psychological account of this kind of experience.

Professor Fabb said:

We sometimes feel that a poem or story communicates important meanings which cannot be paraphrased – ‘ineffable’ meanings. This is a feeling which at its most intense is the experience of the sublime or of an ‘epiphany’, and may be accompanied by a shiver down the spine or similar experience.

Approach to research

Professor Fabb's project is entitled, 'Epiphanies in literature: a psychological and literary linguistic account.' It applies literary linguistics and psychological theory to explore how a piece of writing’s forms and meaning combine with the workings of consciousness, memory and emotion to produce an emotional reaction.

Research fellowship

The Strathclyde professor has received a prestigious research award for his project. His three-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship is designed to “enable well-established and distinguished researchers in the humanities and social sciences to devote themselves to a single research project of outstanding originality and significance, capable of completion within two or three years”.