Individuals in the microcosm of power: parallel analysis of political and literary texts

January, 2018 to December, 2019
CEU Humanities Initiative

The project aims at combining the methods of qualitative research in the social sciences and literary hermeneutics in order to gain a fuller understanding of how political power influences the life of the individual. The working hypothesis of the project is that the analysis of literary works can contribute to a fuller understanding of political structures in operation. Literary works reflect (often in a critical manner) political concepts, and how they influence everyday life, whereas the formation of political ideology is influenced by narratives, symbols and metaphors that appear in literary works. Moreover, literature, particularly novels, often reflect on how the individual needs to respond to political conditions and pressures.
Despite this interrelation between literary and political texts, it is a different approach that these two kinds of texts require. Political texts are often read as straightforward statements by their authors, whereas the concept of the author is a complicated and debated issue in literary studies. Similar problems appear with the notion of fictionality, which is often considered to describe something nonexistent or counterfactual, and hence considered irrelevant in the social sciences, yet literary studies emphasizes its relatedness to empirical or political reality.

The outcome of the combined approach of literary studies and political science is a better understanding of the formation of political ideology and its influence on the life of the individual. This way literary texts become a source for political and social understanding, rather than only an illustration.

Activities of the project: one course every year on political readings of literary texts (hosted by the Department of Political Science and enlisted in the Advanced Specialization for Political Thought), workshops inviting literary scholars and political scientists (partly in the framework of Utopian Studies Society 2018 conference), publication of joint article(s).