Beyond Harry Potter: Researchers to Discuss Mass Reading at Birmingham Event

Posted on Thursday 30th August 2007

The Beyond the Book research team will welcome more than 125 international scholars and professionals working with readers from 31 August - 2 September at the University of Birmingham.

Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading is an international research project looking at contemporary shared reading practices, the development of reading communities and the popular function of literary fiction in the UK, USA and Canada.. 

Community reading events started in the US, where more than 200 cities now host community-wide reading programmes. Canada, Singapore and Australia are also adopting the idea, while five UK cities – including Liverpool and Bristol have held similar events.  The Birmingham Beyond the Book team are keen to discover whether new communities of readers are created by shared reading events, who is inspired to pick up books, and who is turned on or off by reading events like Richard & Judy’s Book Club? 

The conference will explore contemporary reading and what reading means in our lives, ranging from urban fiction reading in an American women’s prison to ghost-reading celebrity autobiographies. Sessions will cover not only subjects such as reading groups, but also the role of publishers, booksellers, broadcast networks, national, regional and municipal governments, and educational institutions in the promotion of reading and book cultures in a digital age.

Dr Danielle Fuller who is Director of the Beyond the Book team from the University’s Department of American and Canadian Studies and convener of the conference says, ‘The study of readers and reading naturally brings together researchers and practitioners.  We will be hearing from professionals who work ‘on the ground’ in reading and literary programming as well as people who work with teenage mothers in Chicago, brain injury patients in Liverpool, and cross border reading in the UK and Ireland.’

‘One of the French speakers will discuss her research on the collective and personal experience of reading Harry Potter,’ she continues.  ‘The wide variety of topics that will be covered at this conference illustrates the range of scholarly work being done on reading not only here in the UK, but in Africa, Canada and parts of Asia.’

A full list of conference presenters and panels at the conference can be found on the Beyond the Book website: www.beyondthebookproject.org

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Notes to Editors

Beyond the book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164.