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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Christina Lupton (University of Copenhagen) and Ben Davies (University of Portsmouth), "Corona Time: Reading Fiction During the Covid-19 Pandemic"

Woman in mask reading

*For Zoom information, please please contact Aylin Malcolm.

Our speakers write:

This paper is the result of study that began in the summer of 2020, into the habits of novel readers under lockdown in Denmark and the UK.  Our report builds on 800 surveys and sixty extensive interviews in the two national contexts, suggesting that the consumption of novels, both in paper and audio form, played a critical part in the way many readers experienced the pandemic.  While we began the study in the spirit of many journalists reporting on the upsurge in book sales in Spring 2020, by imagining people seizing the time they had been waiting for to read Proust or Joyce, we have ended up reaching a somewhat more complicated set of conclusions.  Although some of the readers we spoke to do fall into this category, of being people who had more time to read under lockdown, most describe more complicated engagements with narrative that reflected the unique moment in history in which they were accessing books.  This paper stresses the way temporal co-ordinates matter – both to the way readers interpret and respond to books – and as a dimension in which the effects of novel reading make themselves felt.

About our speakers:

Christina Lupton is Professor at the Institute of Modern Languages at the University of Copenhagen. She is author of three monographs: Knowing Books (Penn, 2012), Reading and the Making of Time (Johns Hopkins, 2018), and Love and the Novel: Life After Reading (Profile, 2022). 

Ben Davies is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Portsmouth, UK. He is the author of Sex, Time, and Space in Contemporary Fiction (Palgrave, 2016), editor of John Burnside (Bloomsbury, 2020), and co-editor of Sex, Gender and Time in Fiction and Culture (Palgrave, 2011). 

Talks will be held live, in person, in the Class of 78 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library. They will also be available via Zoom (please contact us for details). All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on future talks, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press, Emeritus), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Aylin Malcolm.