Abstract

The article uses two previous studies of non-professional, empirical readers of literature in order to constitute and compare their cultural memories about literary works which they have read and remembered well. It is based on the premise that individual memories of such works can, in aggregate, serve as an indicator of more wide-ranging preferences in a given culture. It is argued that this rather unique methodological and theoretical framework situates the paper at the crossroads of comparative literature, comparative cultural studies, and memory studies. Two samples of readers from distinct nations and cultures are analyzed: 90 interviewees from Croatia, and a 100 interviewees from the United States of America. There is a comparison and discussion of the two samples, including some basic characteristics pertaining to the respondents (gender, age). More importantly, the article examines basic characteristics of the texts that they had discussed, such as the genres and periods in which they can be situated. There are three main conclusions, applicable to both cultures: 1) readers tend to best remember novels written since the nineteenth century; 2) major and minor literary cultures have distinct ways of remembering their national writers and languages; 3) well-remembered books are closely tied to the national culture, or a “nuclear cultural family” of literary texts.

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