ENGL 209 A1 Histories of Reading

Danielle Fuller


What is the history of reading? What is the difference between an 'ideal' reader and an actual reader? How is the history of print reading part of the history of colonization? What does it mean to be a reader in the twenty-first century? This course is an introduction to the history of reading in North America and Western Europe. It is not a traditional literary text-based course since it engages with scholarship and methods from reading studies, cultural studies and book history, but no prior knowledge of these fields is required. We will use a variety of historical and contemporary case studies, artefacts, online resources and secondary texts (historical and theoretical) to explore the different ways that readers have acted in different geographical places and at different times in history. The aim of the course is to provide students not only with some knowledge of the history of readers and reading, but also with a vocabulary and with conceptual frameworks that they can use to think and write critically about different cultures and practices of reading.


The course consists of four sections: Unit 1: What is the history of reading? What 'makes' readers?; Unit 2: Theories of Readers and Reading: From 'Ideal' readers to Fans; Unit 3: Exploring the Reading Experience and Evidence of Reading: Communities of readers and Individual readers; Unit 4: Making Readers in the 21st century.


Classes will combine a range of teaching and learning activities including mini-lectures and lectures, small group work, and plenary discussions. Students will prepare by reading a selection of secondary material some of which will be historical, at other times, theoretical. There will also be some hands-on 'field work' tasks (e.g. experimenting with the Reading Experience Database; recording your own reading history).


Readings will include:-

Selections from: Shafquat Towheed, Rosalind Crone, Katherine Halsey(eds.) The History of Reading: A Reader. (2010)

Selections from: Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo (eds.) 'Readers, Reading and Digital Media,' Special Themed Issue, Participations: International Journal of Audience Research. (May 2019) [online, Open Access]



Online Resources to be consulted and used will include:-

The Reading Experience Database (Open U, UK)

WHAT MIDDLETOWN READ project (www.bsu.edu/libraries/wmr) (USA)