From Sept. 2020-2023, I work on a research project titled ‘TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Close and hyperreading of literary texts and the modulation of attention,’ funded by the European Commission under the MSCA-IF-GF – Global Fellowships scheme. On this page, I’ll post updates on the activities and outcomes related to this project.


In the information age, technological developments have drastically increased the amount of texts available through different media. This has led to a shift in reading habits from close reading, sustained and focused attention to the text, to hyperreading, non-linear, computer-assisted modes of reading such as skimming and scanning. Consequently, some fear, young people are losing the ability to concentrate. Many scholars align literary reading with close or deep reading and maintain a strict binary conception of this mode and hyperreading at the opposite pole.

TDLR proposes that (a) readers tend to modulate between the two modes, that are more integrated than is often assumed and that (b) this is especially true for literary reading, as literary texts demand of their readers to switch between close and hyperreading.

Does reading literature help to make us better at allocating and modulating attention? What elements in literature prompt readers to pay close attention, and what elements invite a more distracted reading? Are experienced literary readers more skilled at determining when to zoom in and close read, and when to skim? And is this skill transferable to non-literary (information) environments and texts?

This study will combine textual analysis with questionnaires, eye tracking experiments, and interviews to answer these questions. It will be carried out at UC Santa Barbara’s English Department & Transcriptions Centre (Sept 2020-March 2022); The Norwegian Reading Center of the University of Stavanger (March 2022-Sept 2022) & Tilburg School of Humanities & Digital Sciences (Sept 2022-Sept 2023).


TL;DR? Literary reading in the attention economy. Literature and Mind, UC Santa Barbara. Prerecorded lecture.

Het lezen van literaire teksten in een aandachtseconomie. Keynote De Nieuwe Lezer: Lezen in het digitale tijdperk. Stichting Lezen, Amsterdam, 10 December 2020. Kan tijdelijk hier teruggekeken worden.

“Creatieve Geletterdheid: De Toekomst.” Interview by Miriam Noorduijn. Lezen 15.3, sept. 2020. PDF.

‘Too Long; Didn’t Read’ – Short YouTube clip TSHD Research Carousel Tilburg University, 2020.

Transformations of Attention

UCSB, March 4, 2022

Conference recordings


Susanna Paasonen (University of Turku, Finland), Shifting Rhythms, Ambiguous Distractions


Katherine Hayles (Duke University, NC), Hacking Attention: Machine vs Human Reading


Joe Walther (UCSB, CA), The Things We Do for Love’: Lies and Hate in Social Media


Alice Marwick (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), The Pitfalls of Publicity: Privacy, Harassment, and Online Attention


Kiene Brillenburg Wurth (Utrecht University, Netherlands), From Focus to Presence: Doing Not-Reading


Maryanne Wolf (UCLA, CA), The Changing Reading Brain in a Digital Culture: From Attention and Empathy to Critical Analysis and Reflection


Image: Doug BeubeLife

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13 1/2 x 22 1/2 x 11 in.