Remembrance of Novels Past: Nicholson Baker’s “Memory Criticism”

Richard Elliott | 6 March 2017

From the masterpieces of Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf to recent classics such as Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending, the subject of memory has exercised some of the finest minds of modern literature. Indeed, think of the last novel you read and chances are that a good deal of the narrative was devoted to memory, whether in the form of childhood memories (as in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time), traumatic memories (Eimear McBride’s The Lesser Bohemians), or, more atypically, prenatal memories (Ian McEwan’s Nutshell).

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Reading As If To Live

Tess Goodman | 6 March 2017

In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel describes learning the word “lesbian” from the dictionary at age thirteen (74). As she ages, she finds one book after another that explore this word, leading eventually to two realizations: one, that she “could actually look up homosexuality in the card catalog,” and two, that she herself is a lesbian (75). For her, the former discovery is the catalyst for the latter, which she calls a “revelation not of the flesh, but of the mind” (74). Her reading reveals a larger world, bringing her into touch with herself.

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You are what you read? Why reading is a fundamental threat to identity

May 2, 2016 | Louise Adams.

In a moving passage of Dickens’ novel, the ill-treated David Copperfield remembers ‘sitting on my bed, reading as if for life’.[1] His words capture an experience of reading that will be familiar to many – one of freedom and fulfilment. By engaging with books we escape our immediate circumstances, broaden our horizons, and discover ourselves more fully.

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Who Goes There? Authorial Personae and the Relationships between Authors and Readers

March 7, 2016 | Tess Goodman.

Is there such a thing as a relationship between a reader and an author? Authors often structure their relationships with readers in different ways, in order to connect with a potentially enormous group of readers, widely variant in personality and opinion, whom he or she will never meet. How do authors frame these relationships in ways that can be sustainable over decades or even centuries? And what do those relationships help the author to achieve?

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Refuge and Asylum: A Gardener’s Guide

February 15, 2016 | Sarah Stewart.

Gardens are a cultural staple the world over. You would be hard put to find a major world religion in which gardens do not feature; the sheer multitude of garden-related metaphors you hear everyday are testament to our language’s continuing reliance on concepts born in gardens, not to mention the prevalence of the garden in literary and artistic traditions. For millennia, gardens have been reflections of divine order on earth; spaces to display status, but, fundamentally, they are places where people negotiate with the land, and other people, in order to thrive. Given their global relevance, what potential do gardens and gardening have to bridge barriers between cultures and people of vast differences in background and experience? Between, say, established British citizens and asylum seekers and refugees?

[tw: discussions of torture]

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Where You Read: What Does It Say About You?

December 16, 2015 | Louise Adams.

Reading spaces have been important in British culture since literacy itself took hold. Places such as libraries, bedrooms and railway carriages have been fiercely debated for their suitability as locations for reading. And frequently these views are not so much concerned with the places themselves, but with what they say about the kinds of readers using them.

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Reading Between the Panels: Comics and Critical Theory

November 9, 2015 | Tom Sewel.

How do we read comics? How are the ways in which we read comics changing? For most of their history, the ways in which we have read and talked about comics has been left to comics fandoms to decide. While this has produced a passionate proliferation of reading approaches, it has meant that critical rigour has only very rarely been brought to bear on this uniquely multi-modal narrative form. With the academy’s relatively recent acceptance of comics as literature, this public conversation is now seeing a seismic shift.

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Learning From Journals: What can we Learn From ‘The Landswoman’?

November 2, 2015 | Cherish Watton.

The Women’s Land Army was a civilian organisation set up during World War One and used again in World War Two until 1950. Women replaced men on the land, working in multiple roles in agriculture, forage (haymaking for food for horses) or timber cutting. What can we learn about the representation of women’s wartime work from The Landswoman journal?

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