Our researchers are asking questions about generating a diverse and socially inclusive canon fit for the twenty-first century, while stimulating literacy and readings cultures across the UK and beyond. Most importantly, we want to know which novels have shaped the lives of the British public, using the nQuire platform to launch a series of surveys.

The research has various strands. Firstly, the team are helping the BBC gather data on the way in which general public has engaged with The Novels That Shaped Our Worlds list of 100 novels, which were revealed in 10 monthly categories including Identity, Love, Sex and Romance, and Rule-Breakers. We would like to know which novels the public has read, and what they think about these works of fiction. Towards the end of the project, we’ll be releasing a longer survey to understand how people have responded to the entire list.

Secondly, our Reader Review survey is a continuation of Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam’s research into the ways in which readers were asked to assign ‘literary quality’ to contemporary novels. This project is called The Riddle of Literary Quality and is designed to understand how unconscious biases – the stereotypes that certain groups may have about individuals or other groups of people that we are not aware of – are part of our reading pattern, publishing industry, school curricula etc. 

Thirdly, our Novel Memories research seeks to understand how people have remembered stories and characters they read in the past. We want to explore how people’s mood at a specific point in time when reading fiction has shaped their emotional understanding of the story, but we also want to know how people associate certain emotions with characters and books. We’re also interested in understanding what particular novels had a major impact on your life, and why? We will then ask you to reread these novels to see how your opinion of these novels has changed. For more information, contact Professor Sebastian Groes.