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.