Ravenstein Seminar 2015: Reading and Readerships: Evolutions of the Literary Experience
Date: January 21-23, 2015
There are good reasons to doubt that reading has ever been reducible to the individual act of immersion and seclusion that a certain 19th century conception of aesthetic response depicted it to be. Digital technologies and transformations of literary culture, however, have recently rendered this conception more questionable than ever. The growing popularity of literary festivals, online discussions forums, book clubs and amateur reviews seems to signal the end of ‘civilized reading’, as Jim Collins has sardonically put it, and foregrounds a view of readership and reading as an interactive process and shared experience. These developments call for an analysis of the ways in which new types of readers experience, interpret, and process literature. As Rita Felski has noted in Uses of Literature (2008), “any attempt to clarify the value of literature must surely engage the diverse motives of readers and ponder the mysterious event of reading”. At the 2015 Ravenstein Seminar, we will analyze both contemporary as well as historical transformations of ‘the literary experience’ by charting and contrasting the individual and collective dimensions of literary consumption, participation, and appraisal.