Ann Wierda Rowland, “Reading the Readers: Books Clubs of the Past” | National Humanities Center


Ann Wierda Rowland, “Reading the Readers: Books Clubs of the Past”

April 13, 2020

When we think of the ways in which past audiences encountered poems and novels, we often tend to imagine a silent and solitary process. But for many readers, engaging with fiction was a fundamentally collective endeavor, which often involved getting together with a group of friends to read aloud or visit locations depicted in the work of a favorite author. By acknowledging and engaging with these social habits of reading, we can begin to reconstruct the way in which diverse reading publics brought the words that they encountered on the page to life.

In this podcast, Ann Wierda Rowland discusses her current research into a particular coterie of Boston readers at the turn of the twentieth century who regularly gathered to explore the works of John Keats. Through reflecting on the shared reading practices of past audiences, she suggests, we can better understand our own modes of literary engagement in a period that has supposedly witnessed a rapidly declining interest in the written word.

Ann Wierda Rowland
Ann Wierda Rowland, University of Kansas
Ann Wierda Rowland is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas where she teaches classes on British literature of the 18th and 19th centuries. Her current research interests include British Romanticism, histories, theories and material cultures of reading, and literary constructions of childhood and the human. She is the author of British Romanticism and Childhood: the Infantilization of British Literary Culture (Cambridge, 2012) and the co-editor with Paul Westover of Transatlantic Literature and Author Love in the Nineteenth Century (Palgrave, 2016).