The aim of this study is to investigate how reading experiences intertwine fiction and life and how such experiences change over time. Twelve reading autobiographies of young, motivated readers (age range twenty-two to thirty-two; six men, six women) were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The theoretical framework that served as the point of departure for the content categories was a model of identification in which different types of wish identification, similarity identification, dissimilarity, and empathy were distinguished. Other content categories were derived from different objects of identification and from different kinds of cognitive and emotional effects. Three major results are presented and discussed. One outcome was the difference in autobiographical style between the two earliest periods of life(childhood and adolescence) and the last, most recent period (young adulthood).The readers described their reading experiences in the latter period in a more general and abstract way, whereas the earlier memories had a more “recollective” character. We discuss this finding in relation to general knowledge and theories about autobiographical memory. The second result was a difference in reported reading behavior and reading experience between female and male readers. Male readers tended to a certain favorite genre, such as, for example, science fiction, or to a favorite author throughout their lives, whereas female readers wrote more about their changing ways of reading. Also, the female readers reported more than twice as many identification experiences. In a third finding, we observed a developmental pattern in identification: the transition from childhood to puberty and adolescence manifested a shift from wish to similarity identification. This pattern matches earlier studies about the development of readers and can be understood in relation to general developmental characteristics. However,together with some additional observations about parallel shifts in the objects of identification from characters and events to abstract themes, a more detailed and complete picture of the changing functions of reading fiction can be drawn.
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Els Andringa; The Interface between Fiction and Life: Patterns of Identification in Reading Autobiographies. Poetics Today 1 June 2004; 25 (2): 205–240. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-25-2-205
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