Cultural Readings of Literature: Social Parameters in Evaluation of Literary Characters (the Case of Wokulski)

  • Arkadiusz Gut The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Philosophy
  • Zhao Gang Beijing Foreign Studies University
  • Andrzej Ruszer Beijing Foreign Studies University
Keywords: literature; cross-cultural study; China; Poland; reading; cross-cultural story comprehension; Bolesław Prus; Lalka (Doll)


The present article attempts to show how culture-specific factors dominant in a given social group  influence and model evaluation of literary characters. Special attention is paid to the character’s attitude towards challenges he faces, his decisions, his personality traits, his mental states (beliefs, desires and thoughts) as well as folk psychology which guide him in his life. The profile of our research project fits into contemporary investigations of how culturally defined thinking can shape reading and understanding of literary works in terms of both evaluation of literary characters, comprehension of plot, and perception of time implied in the work. Our research project contributes to the current discussion on cultural differences between the West and the East. Students from Poland and China took part in the project. They all answered several dozen questions of a specially prepared social questionnaire concerning their evaluation of Stanisław Wokulski, the protagonist of Bolesław Prus’ novel Lalka (The Doll). The results show that students from the two cultural groups responded in different ways to many questions which were correlated with specific cultural parameters that differ the East and the West, which in the profile of our research is interpreted as a visible cultural transfer from one area of thinking into another.


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