English and Film Studies

ENGL 425 B1: Studies in History of Reading: Reading, Readers and Mass Media

D. Fuller

When contemporary readers turn to books, fan fiction or audiobooks in their leisure time they are participating in popular culture. They are also choosing an activity – reading – that is often viewed as more socially and cultural valuable than others, such as watching television or playing online games.  In this course we examine why reading books gives kudos to readers; how mass media and the publishing industry inform what and how we read and our ideas about it; and how and why readers share their reading, and connect with others both on- and off-line.

This is not a traditional literary text-based course since it engages with scholarship and methods from reading studies and book history, but no prior knowledge of these fields is required.  The four themed units are: Reading As A Social Practice; Reading and Mass Media; Producing Readers; Reading and Digital Media. Within each unit we will examine a selection of theories, artefacts and practices that will allow us to investigate the meanings and formations that contemporary book and reading cultures assume. Our texts and case studies will range across media, genres and nation-states. Hands-on activities (e.g. an in-class reading group) and mini-research tasks (e.g. observing readers in libraries and bookshops) will also inform our learning and thinking.

Texts will include:-

1 of the Canada Reads selections from the March 2019 CBC Radio competition

1 short-listed work of fiction for the Giller Prize 2018 competition

Case Studies may include:-

Face-to-face Book Clubs

Radio (Canada Reads)

TV (e.g. Oprah’s Book Club)

Prizes (Giller Prize)

Podcasts (e.g. Witch, Please)

Fanfiction (e.g. on Archive of Our Own and Wattpad)

Theory and Criticism may 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]