In this paper, I argue that one of the most important phenomena for which creative writing studies needs to account is pleasure. Giving an account of pleasure as a "liking reaction" which hedonic brain systems “paint” onto accompanying cognitive states, I argue that a much broader investigation, a "volupology," is necessary if one wants to adequately account for the complicated interactions of text, language, genre, psychology, culture, identity, and context which mingle to produce even a single instance of readerly pleasure. After briefly exploring how the production of this body of knowledge could serve both our students and our pedagogies, I then offer an example of what a volupological study (or “volupography”) might look like by attempting to account for some of the pleasures that one might take in that genre of novel and short story which has come to be called “literary fiction.” Drawing upon genre theory, I investigate this term, showing first how it links together a number of disparate and discrete discourse communities through "family resemblance" and then how its use necessarily privileges the point of view of specific readers with specific sets of internalized institutional knowledge. Then, bringing together contemporary psychological research and original qualitative research, I make a provisional attempt to account for the pleasures which some of these readerships take in those texts which are specified by the term "literary fiction." Pointing out the provisional and incomplete nature of the current research, I then conclude by calling for a more detailed volupology both of literary fiction in particular and of reading in general.

Syrewicz_Toward a Volupology of Literary Fiction.mp4 (743111 kB)
Conference presentation video