The Foregrounding Assessment Matrix: An interface for qualitative-quantitative interdisciplinary research

  • Grazia Pulvirenti Università degli Studi di Catania
  • Renata Gambino
  • Teresa Sylvester
  • Arthur M. Jacobs
  • Jana Lüdtke
Parole chiave: Qualitative and quantitative research; Literary criticism; Experimental psycholo-gy; Foregrounding; Density fields


This paper presents the results of a transdisciplinary research conducted by scholars working in the humanities and experimental psychologists in order to find an interface between the needs of a qualitative approach (mainly based on the evaluation of stylistic features) and those of a quantitative analysis, in order to find useful features for testing different reading behaviors and for new hermeneutical enquiries. The results of our research, which was conducted in two Labs (Dahlem Institute for Neuroimaging of Emotion at the FU Berlin and the NewHums – Neurocognitive and Human Studies at the University of Catania), consistently differ from previous ones, as they focus on the whole multi-layered foregrounded texture of a poem and try to evaluate predictable differences in reading, re-reading behaviour and meaning-making processes.

We present the FAM, targeting foregrounding elements in three main categories: the phonological, morpho-syntactic, and rhetoric. To identify those elements, four different text levels were taken into account, the sublexical level of phonemes and syllables, the lexical level of single words, the interlexical level of word combinations across longer distance (e.g. two lines), and the supralexical level of whole stanzas or an entire poem. In contrast to previous quantitative analyses on short, isolated sentences and texts, mostly expository in nature (‘textoids’), or on single words or segments, the text is considered as a whole, marked by density fields that work as milestones along a reading route.

Biografia autore

Grazia Pulvirenti, Università degli Studi di Catania

Prof. ordinario di Letteratura tedesca Dipartimento di studi umanistici

Riferimenti bibliografici

Baldick, Chris. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Bleich, David. Readings and Feelings: An Introduction to Subjective Criticism. NCTE, 1975.
Bortolussi, Marisa, and Peter Dixon. “Transport: Challenges to the metaphor.” Oxford Handbooks Online. Oxford University, 2015.
Carrol, Gareth, and Conklin, Kathy. “Eye-tracking multi-word units: some methodological questions.” Journal of Eye Movement Research, vol. 7, no. 5, 2014, pp. 1-11.
Delmonte, Rodolfo. “Exploring Shakespeare's Sonnets with SPARSAR.” Linguistics and Literature Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 2016, pp. 61–95.
Ferstl, Evelyn. C., and von Cramon, Yves Y. “Time, space and emotion: fMRI reveals content specific activation during text comprehension”. Neuroscience Letters, vol 427, 2007, pp. 159-164.
Fechino, Marion, Jacobs, Arthur M., and Lüdtke, Jana. “Following in Jakobson and Lévi-Strauss’ footsteps: A neurocognitive poetics investigation of eye movements during the reading of Baudelaire’s ‘Les Chats'”. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 2020.
Fish, Stanley. Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities. Harvard UP, 1980.
Franzosi, Roberto. “Quantitative narrative analysis”. Sage, 2010, 162.
Franzosi, Roberto, and Vicari, Stefania. “What’s in a Text? Answers from Frame Analysis and Rhetoric for Measuring Meaning Systems and Argumentative Structures.” Rhetorica, vol. 36, no. 4, 2018, pp. 393-429.
Gallese, Vittorio. “Embodied Simulation: From Neurons to Phenomenal Experience.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, vol. 4, 2005, pp. 23–48.
Gallese, Vittorio. “Embodied Simulation: “From Mirror Neuron Systems to Interpersonal Relations”. Novartis Found Symposium, 2007, pp. 216-221.
Gallese, Vittorio. “The Problem of Images. A View from the Brain-Body.” Phenomenology and Mind, vol. 14, 2018, pp. 70-79.
Gallese, Vittorio, and Lakoff, George. “The Brain’s Concepts: the Role of the Sensory-motor System in Conceptual Knowledge.” Cognitive Neuropsychology, vol. 22, 2005, pp. 455-479.
Gallese, Vittorio, Fadiga, Luciano, Fogassi, Leonardo, and Rizzolatti, Giacomo. “Action Recognition in the Premotor Cortex”. Brain, vol. 119, 1996, pp. 593-609.
Gallese, Vittorio, and Cuccio, Valentina. The Paradigmatic Body. Embodied Simulation, Intersubjectivity and the Bodily Self. Open MIND. MIND Group, 2015, pp. 1-23.
Gambino Renata, and Pulvirenti, Grazia. Storie, menti, mondi. Approccio neuroermeneutico alla letteratura. Mimesis, 2018.
Gambino Renata, and Pulvirenti, Grazia. “Neurohermeneutics. A Transdisciplinary Approach to Literature”. Gestalt Theory, vol. 41, no. 2, 2019a, pp. 185-200.
Gambino, Renata and Pulvirenti, Grazia. “The Neurohermeneutics of Suspicion”. Quaderni di Comparatismi. Ledizioni, 2019b, pp. 144-163.
Garvin, Paul L., A Prague School reader on esthetics, literary structures and style. Georgetown University Press, 1964.
Graesser, Arthur C., and A. Zwaan, Rolf. “Inference Generation and the Construction of Situation Models.” Discourse Comprehension: Essays in Honour of Walter Kintsch. edited b y Charles A. Weaver, Suzanne Mannes, Charles R. Fletcher. New York-London. Routledge, 1995, pp. 117-140.
Hühn, Peter. “Plotting the Lyric: Forms of Narration in Poetry.” Theory into Poetry, edited by Eva Müller-Zettelmann & Margarete Rubik. Rodopi, 2005, pp. 147–72.
Iser, Wolfgang. Der Akt des Lesens. Theorie ästhetischer Wirkung. Fink Uni-Taschenbucher: Literaturwissenschaft. 1976.
Jacobs, Arthur M., Lüdtke, Jana, and Meyer-Sickendiek, Burkhard. “Bausteine einer Neurokognitiven Poetik: Foregrounding/Backgrounding, lyrische Stimmung und ästhetisches Gefallen (Elements of a neurocognitive poetics: foregrounding/backgrounding, lyrical mood and aesthetic pleasure).” Stimmung und Methode (Mood and Method), edited by Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek and Friederike Reents, Mohr Siebeck, 2013, pp. 63–94.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “Neurocognitive poetics: methods and models for investigating the neuronal and cognitive-affective bases of literature reception.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 9, no. 186, 2015a, pp. 1–22.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “Towards a neurocognitive poetics model of literary reading.” Cognitive neuroscience of natural language use, edited by Roel M. Willems, 2015b, Cambridge University Press, pp. 135–159.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “The scientific study of literary experience.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 5, no. 2, 2015c, pp. 139–170.
Jacobs, Arthur M. et al. “10 Years of BAWLing into affective and aesthetic processes in reading: what are the echoes?”. Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, 2015, pp. 1–15.
Jacobs, Arthur, Hofmann, Markus J., and Kinder, Annette. “On elementary affective decisions: to like or not to like, that is the question.” Frontiers in psychology, vol. 7, 2016a, pp. 1–17.
Jacobs, Arthur M., Lüdtke, Jana, Aryani, Arash, Meyer-Sickendieck, Burkhard, & Conrad, Markus. “Mood-empathic and aesthetic responses in poetry reception: A model-guided, multilevel, multimethod approach.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016b, pp. 87–130.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “The scientific study of literary experience and neuro-behavioral responses to literature.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 6, no. 1, 2016, pp. 164–174.
Jacobs, Arthur M., and Willems, Roel M. “The fictive brain: neurocognitive correlates of engagement in literature.” Review of General Psychology, 2017.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “Quantifying the Beauty of Words: A Neurocognitive Poetics Perspective.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, vol. 11, no. 622, 2017, pp. 1–7.
Jacobs, Arthur M., Schuster, Sarah, Xue, Shuwei, & Lüdtke, Jana. “What’s in the brain that ink may character...: A Quantitative Narrative Analysis of Shakespeare's 154 Sonnets for Use in Neurocognitive Poetics.” Scientific Study of Literature, vol. 7, no. 1, 2017, pp. 4–51.
Jacobs, Arthur M., and Kinder, Annette. “The Brain Is the Prisoner of Thought”: A Machine-Learning Assisted Quantitative Narrative Analysis of Literary Metaphors for Use in Neurocognitive Poetics." Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 32, no. 3, 2017, pp. 139–160.
Jacobs, Arthur M. “Explorations in an English Poetry Corpus: A Neurocognitive Poetics Perspective.” arXiv:1801.02054 [cs.CL], 2018.
Jacobs, Arthur, M., and Kinder, Annette. What makes a metaphor literary? Answers from two computational studies. Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 33, no. 2, 2018, pp. 85-100.
Jakobson, Roman, and Lévi-Strauss, Claude. “Les Chats” De Charles Baudelaire.” L'Homme, vol. 2, no. 1, 1962, pp. 5–21.
Lacey, Simon, Stilla, Randall and Sathian, Krish. "Metaphorically feeling: comprehending textural metaphors activates somatosensory cortex." Brain and Language, vol. 120, no. 3 (2012), pp. 416-421.
Langacker, Ronald W. Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Volume II . Stanford University Press, 1991.
Lausberg, Heinrich. Handbuch der Literarischen Rhetorik.Eine Grundlegung der Literaturwissenschaft, 4. Auflage. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2008.
Leech, Geoffrey. A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. Longman, 1969.
Leech, Geoffrey. “New resources, or just better old ones? The Holy Grail of representativeness.” Language and Computers, vol. 59, no. 1, 2006, pp. 133–149.
Leech, Geoffrey and Short, Michael H. “Style in Fiction. A linguistic introduction to English fictional prose.” English Language Series 13, Longman, 1981.
Lotman, Juri Mikhaĭlovich. The structure of the artistic text. [Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literature]. University of Michigan, 1977.
Lüdtke, Jana. “Eine Frage der Empirie: Zum emotionalen Erleben bei der Rezeption von Stimmungsgedichten” (An empirical question: On emotional experience in poetry reception). Stimmung und Methode (Mood and Method), edited by Burkhard Meyer-Sickendiek and Friederike Reents, Mohr Siebeck, 2013, pp. 119–138.
Lüdtke, Jana, Meyer-Sickendieck, Burkhard, and Jacobs, Arthur M.. “Immersing in the stillness of an early morning: Testing the mood empathy hypothesis of poetry reception.” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 8, no. 3, 2014, p. 363.
Martindale, Colin. The romantic progression: The psychology of literary history. Halsted Press, 1975.
McQuarrie, Edward F., and Glen Mick, David . “Figures of rhetoric in advertising language.” Journal of consumer research, vol. 22, no. 4, 1996, pp. 424-438.
Meyer-Sickendiek, Burkhard. Lyrisches Gespür vom geheimen Sensorium moderner Poesie. Fink, 2012.
Miall, David S. “Response to poetry: Studies of language and structure”. Reader response: The empirical dimension, edited by E. F. Nardocchio, 1992, pp. 153-170.
Miall, David S., and Kuiken, Don. “Foregrounding, defamiliarization, and affect: Response to literary stories.” Poetics, vol. 22, no. 5, 1994, pp. 389–407.
Miller, George. “Stylistic and rhetoric and the analysis of style: An annotated bibliography.” Style, vol. 14, no. 2, 1980, pp. 75-102.
Mukarovsky, Jan. “Standard language and poetic language”. A Prague School reader on esthetics, literary structures and style, edited by P. Garvin. Georgetown University Press, 1964, pp. 17–30.
Müller, Hermann, J., Geyer, Thomas, Günther, Franziska, Kacian, Jim, & Pierides, Stella. “Reading English-language haiku: pro-cesses of meaning construction revealed by eye movements.” Journal of Eye Movement Re-search, vol. 10, no. 1, 2017. doi: 10.16910/jemr.10.1.4
Nicklas, Pascal, and Jacobs, Arthur M. “Rhetorics, neurocognitive poetics and the aesthetics of adaptation.” Poetics Today, vol. 38, 2017, pp. 393-412. doi: 10.1215/03335372-3869311.
Paulson, William R. The Noise of Culture: Literary Texts in a World of Information. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988.
Rayner, Keith. “Eye movements and attention in reading, scene perception, and visual search.” The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 62, no. 8, 2009, pp. 1457–1506. doi: 10.1080/17470210902816461
Rayner, Keith, and Pollatsek, Alexander. The Psychology of Reading. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall, 1994.
Rosenblatt, Louise M. The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Southern Illinois University Press, 1978.
Schrott, Raoul, and Jacob, Arthur M.s. Gehirn und Gedicht: Wie wir unsere Wirklichkeiten konstruieren (Brain and Poetry: How We Construct Our Realities). Hanser, 2011.
Shakespeare, William. Shakespeares sonnets: with three hundred years of commentary. Ed. Carl D. Atkins. Dickinson University Press, 2008.
Simonton, Dean K. “Shakespeare's Sonnets: A Case of and for Single–Case Historiometry.” Journal of Personality, vol. 57, no. 3, 1989, pp. 695–721.
Simonton, Dean K. “Lexical choices and aesthetic success: A computer content analysis of 154 Shakespeare sonnets.” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 24, no. 4, 1990, pp. 251–264.
Sprang, Felix. “The Confines of Cognitive Literary Studies: The Sonnet and a Cognitive POetics of Form.” Journal of LIterary Theory 2017, 11(2), pp. 240-254.
Speer, Nicole K., Reynolds, Jeremy R., Swallow, Jeremy R. and Zacks, Jeffrey M. "Reading stories activates neural representations of visual and motor experiences." Psychological Science 20, no. 8 (2009), pp. 989-999.
Steen, Gerard. “Can discourse properties of metaphor affect metaphor recognition?”. Journal of Pragmatics, vol. 36, no. 7, 2004, pp. 1295–1313.
Steen, Gerard. “The Paradox of Metaphor: Why We Need a Three-Dimensional Model of Metaphor”. Metaphor and Symbol, vol. 23, no. 4, 2008, pp. 213–241.
Stockwell, Peter. Sociolinguistics: A resource book for students. Psychology Press, 2002.
Stockwell, Peter. “Texture”. (2016). The Bloomsbury Companion to Stylistics. Bloomsbury, ed. E. F. Nardocchio, 2016, pp. 458-475.
Tsur, Reuven. What is Cognitive Poetics? Katz Research Institute for Hebrew Literature, Tel Aviv University, 1983.
Traxler, Matthew, and Gernsbacher, Morton Ann (Ed.). Handbook of psycholinguistics. Elsevier, 2011.
Turner, Frederick, and Pöppel, Ernst. “The neural lyre: Poetic meter, the brain, and time.” Poetry, 1983, pp. 277–309.
Van Peer, Willie. Stylistics and psychology: Investigations of foregrounding. Taylor & Francis, 1986.
Van Peer, Willie. Foregrounding. The encyclopedia of language and linguistics (1272–1275), ed. Ron E. Asher, Pergamon Press, 1994.
Vendler, Helen. The art of Shakespeare's sonnets. Harvard University Press, vol. 1, 1997.
Vinci, Elisabetta, Gambino, Renata, Pulvirenti, Grazia (Ed). What is what? Focus on Transdisciplinary Concepts and Terminology in Neuroaestetics, Cognition and Poetics, «Gestalt Theory», vol, 41, no. 2, 2019.
Warriner, Amy B., Kuperman, Victor, and Brysbaert, Marc. “Norms of valence, arousal, and dominance for 13,915 English lemmas.” Behavior research methods, vol. 45, no. 4, 2013, pp. 1191–1207.
Willems, Roel M., and Arthur M. Jacobs. “Caring about Dostoyevsky: the untapped potential of studying literature.” Trends in cognitive sciences, vol. 20, no. 4, 2016, pp. 243–245.
Xue, Shuwei, Lüdtke, Jana, Sylvester, Theresa, & Jacobs, Arthur M. “Reading Shakespeare sonnets: Combining quantitative narrative analysis and predictive modeling – an eye tracking study”. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 12, 2019.
Zyngier, Sonia, Bortolussi, Marisa, Chesnokova, Anna , and Auracher, Jan (Ed.). Directions in empirical literary studies: In honor of Willie van Peer, vol. 5. John Benjamins Publishing, 2008.
Zwaan, Rolf A. “Situation Models, Mental Simulations, and Abstract Concepts in Discourse Comprehension.” Psychon Bull Rev, 2016, pp. 1028-34
Come citare
PulvirentiG., GambinoR., SylvesterT., JacobsA. M., & LüdtkeJ. (2020). The Foregrounding Assessment Matrix: An interface for qualitative-quantitative interdisciplinary research. ENTHYMEMA, (26), 261-284.