readers and reading

Thinking about reading tonight. In my eighteenth-century novel course we are about to discuss the Ian Watt chapter ìThe reading public and the rise of the novel.î I also recently read the chapter ìReaders and the reading publicî in John Brewer‘s The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Both authors look to connect demographic data and evidence of social change to the practice of reading, and in Watt’s case, to make connections to the development of the genre of the novel. Written forty years apart, the two chapters draw strikingly different conclusions from largely the same information. Watt, for instance, writes that there was clearly a substantial number of women with the leisure time to read novels, so novel reading was a largely female practice. Brewer looks at the same evidence (the number of references to and representations of female novel reading) and concludes instead that there was a great anxiety about women reading novels. Of course, Brewer can also draw upon forty years of research into such topics as library lending records to point out that men read novels just as much as women.

The other kind of reading I’ve been thinking about is blog reading (and writing). What will happen if I start to devote more blog space to my research and teaching, a subject with a perhaps more limited potential audience than the trips that I take from time to time or the occasional blogging squabble? And will this make blogging seem more like work and less like the enjoyable process it feels like, now? And why is it I think I should be doing this?

Well, it’s not an either/or proposition.

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