Engl 209: Reading Histories: Making Readers

Winter Term 2012, Tues 6:30-9:20 pm., HC 2-11

David S. Miall
(David.Miall (at) Ualberta.Ca; HC 4.27)
Office hour: Mondays, 1:15 - 2:30

Course description | Reading | Schedule | Assignments | Projects | Other resources | Course Policies | Other Essentials

Course Description

Tales of WonderThe institution of literature has been considered a relatively recent invention, its advent being located in the Renaissance or the mid-Eighteenth Century. The work of establishing literature meant not only consolidating a range of textual and generic features that would count as literary, but also creating a readership responsive to the consumption of literature (usually conceived to correlate with the development of bourgeois identity). The emergence of the idea of literature, as Trevor Ross has argued, may hinge in particular on the shift in focus from writer to reader, from invention to reception; it also centres on the identification of specific aesthetic criteria that, eventually, require the disinterested reader and the division of literature into high and low categories. Following the establishment of a literary canon by the mid 19th Century, English literature was formulated as a discipline in the university, distinct from the classics and from philological study: this occurred first in the U.S.A., then in Britain during the 1920s. In addition to critical and historical readings, we will also consider two novels that were published at critical moments during the history of reading and that raise the question of what is literary.

We will interrogate the history of reading in several ways by analysing:

Reading and booklist

Books required (available in university bookstore):

Finkelstein, David and Alistair McCleery, Eds. The Book History Reader, 2nd ed. Routledge.
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Broadview Press.
Braddon, Elizabeth. Lady Audley's Secret. Broadview Press.

Other readings will be provided through a related website. In the schedule below BHR refers to a chapter in The Book History Reader.



week of
notes, optional reading
Jan 10 Introductions; reading now and in history. Lecture notes; short story, "The Trout"  
Jan 17 Reading now -- readings of "The Trout"; "Trout" report; Iser, BHR (391) / Miall, "Necessity" Literariness / Iser: notes / Miall: notes
Jan 24 Reading in history: Ong, BHR (134); Darnton, BHR (9); Darnton, "First Steps" / History overview
<-- print out Darnton "First Steps" to bring to class, or read on computer
Darnton ppt notes
Jan 31 Chartier, BHR (87); Chartier notes; Certeau, Michel De. "Reading as Poaching." De Certeau notes
Kloek & Kruif, "Readers and Reading Behavior"
Feb 7 Case Study I: Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" / Tintern: early reviews / Rutherford reads "Tintern"; Graff, "Oratorical Culture" Commentaries; Ward, "'Came From Yon Fountain' .."; Klancher, "Romantic Theory"
Miall, "Tintern" (2000)
Feb 14 15-19th C readership: Altick, BHR (440); Rose, BHR (424); Native Readers / Rose notes
Kaufman, "Innerpeffray"
Essay 1 due
Feb 21 Reading week  
Feb 28 Wittmann, Reinhard. "Was there a Reading Revolution ..?" / summary; Colclough, Stephen M. "Procuring Books"; notes & figures; Chartier, BHR (157) Bourdieu, "Introduction"
Wittmann questions / previous
Mar 6 Sutherland, BHR (345); Orlando intro. Isobel Grundy; Flint, BHR (416);


Mar 13 Case Study II: Austen. Northanger Abbey. Reviews of Northanger; Austen passages / Kaufman, "In Defence of Fair Readers"
Ross, "The Emergence of 'Literature'"; view of Bath by Nattes (1804); Austen website
Mar 20 Northanger Abbey, cont.
Benedict, Barbara M. "Sensibility by the Numbers" / Notes
Sicherman, Barbara. "Reading and Middle-Class Identity" / notes
Mar 27 Case Study III: Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret; Braddon intro;
Course Summary

Essay 2 due

Apr 3 Lady Audley's Secret, cont.
Flint, Kate. "Sensation Fiction." / notes

Apr 10 Final examination (2 hours)



Essay topics.

Essay 1, due Feb 14. Consider the figure and role of the reader, as this has emerged so far in your readings for the course. What is the evidence for reading and its contexts, and how might we assess it? (1000 words)

Essay 2, due Mar 27. Choose your own topic, based on the work that has most interested you during the term. (1500 words)

Projects. Students will work in small groups of 4-5, and be assigned a project presentation date to be noted in the schedule. You will consider the readings undertaken that day or in the week or two prior to the presentation and choose one or more topics on which to present points for analysis or debate. For example, you might follow up two or three of the references provided in a chapter or article that appear interesting. Or you might consider the reader implied in one of the literary texts we will be reading, or look at early reviews of the text. A presentation will, preferably, be accompanied by visual aids (Powerpoint, web page, etc.). At the class session following the presentation, each student in a group will hand in a short report informally explaining something about why you pursued that topic and evaluating the presentation (500 words approx.). You will receive a grade for the project overall and a grade for the short report.

Exam. This will be held during the final evening of the course, April 10th, at 6:30 (two hours).

Assignment grades. Assignments will be marked on the university standard 4-point letter grade scale, where A = excellent, B = good, C = satisfactory, and D = poor/minimal pass.

The marks will be weighted as follows:

Term work (worth 70% of final grade):
    Essay 1: 25%
    Essay 2: 45%
    Project: 30% (20% project, 10% short report)
Examination (worth 30% of final grade)

Other resources

Facebook page for course

International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature and Media (IGEL)

SHARP: The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing

Empirical Studies of Reading: Miall and Kuiken website

Reading Experience Database

Streetprints. Ballads, chapbooks, etc., from late 18th and early 19th centuries.

William B. Warner, Staging Readers Reading. (Includes analysis of pictorial representations of readers.)

Hogan, Patrick Colm. "Ethnocentrism and the very idea of literary theory." College Literature 23, (Feb, 1996). (online version)

Course policies

Attendance: If you miss a class, please contact a classmate (not the instructor) before the next class to find out what you missed. Classes will begin promptly at the scheduled time.

Late Policy: Essays must be handed to the instructor at the beginning of the class session at which they are due. They must not be a) given to another student to submit, b) put under the instructor's office door, or c) faxed, or otherwise attempted to be submitted through the English Department office, or d) emailed to the instructor (unless arrangements to do so have been made ahead of time). An essay submitted in this or any other unauthorized way will be considered as having not been submitted and will receive no grade.

The penalty for late papers is a half-grade point per day, including weekends (e.g., a B will become a B-). Late papers may be accepted without penalty if the student has compelling grounds and speaks to or emails the instructor about an extension at least one day before the assignment is due.

Final Exam: The final examination questions will cover the entire course. You will not be able to make up a missed exam unless you provide a medical certificate or some other compelling personal reason for absence. Term work will not be reconsidered after the final examination has been written.

Plagiarism: Note that essay writing must be your own work. A student in whose work plagiarism is detected will face serious penalties, as outlined in the student code.

Other essentials

Policy about course outlines can be found in section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar.

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour (online) and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Because of the seriousness of plagiarism and cheating, it is suggested that students review the definitions of cheating and plagiarism and the related penalties available in the Code of Student Behaviour from the link above; ignorance is not acceptable as a defence in cases of academic offences.

The pictures above are:
Sir Edward Poynter (1836-1919). Reading (1871).
James Gillray (1757-1815). Tales of Wonder!! (1802). Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta.

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Document created August 31st 2006 / updated February 2nd 2012