Reconceptualizing foregrounding

Katalin Bálint, Frank Hakemulder, Moniek Kuijpers, Miruna Doicaru, Ed Tan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The experience of deviation is often referred to as foregrounding and contrasted with the experience of feeling absorbed in a narrative. However, instead of simply assuming that foregrounding and absorption are mutually exclusive, they should also be considered as co-occurring: being absorbed as a result of a deviating aspect of a story. In the present paper we examine the co-occurrence of responses by means of a data-driven qualitative approach. The analysis of interviews about absorbed experiences with written and cinematic fictional narratives focused on occurrences of and responses to perceived deviation. We identified seven strategies in response to deviation that may be described through three underlying dimensions: absorption, agency, and valence. Findings suggest that perceived deviation, rather than obstructing absorption, is associated with intense and meaningful engagement with narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-207
Number of pages29
JournalScientific Study of Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • narratives
  • style
  • narrative absorption
  • qualitative research
  • foregrounding


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