Evaluation of literature by professional and layperson critics. A digital and literary sociological analysis of evaluative talk of literature through the prism of literary prizes, 2007-2017

Beoordeling van literatuur door beroeps- en lekencritici. Een digitale en literatuursociologische analyse van literaire waardeoordelen op basis van literaire prijzen, 2007-2017
Begin - Einde 
2019 - 2023 (lopend)
Vakgroep Letterkunde
Vakgroep Vertalen, Tolken en Communicatie



Recently, the manager of a Dutch publishing consortium manager stated that literary quality should be measured and predicted by means of algorithms and big data-based audience research, rather than by experts. His claim drew ire and caused the exodus of many of established authors; at the same time, the statement is indicative of a broader societal trend in which the knowledge of professional 'pundits' is rivalled and challenged by technological developments and the reliance on "the wisdom of the crowds". Scholars have argued that debates on the validity of tastes and evaluation are indicative of “a waning consensus about what has cultural value”. This project proposes to do both qualitative and quantitative research into the perceptions of readers by means of a digitally empowered method of literary sociology. As such, it will be the first systematic study into the phenomenon of "layman/layperson criticism". The project will draw on a broad corpus of critical discourse generated by six literary prizes in thee different linguistic communities (Germany, the Low Countries and the UK) in the period 2007-2017. We aim to answer questions such as: What are the criteria for telling 'good' from 'bad' literature used by both professional and layperson critics? What role does the attribution of societal engagement play in the judgment of contemporary literature? What are the differences between academic prizes and literary prizes that draw on audience participation?






Externe medewerkers

Henk Roose

Department of Sociology - Ghent University