Atlantic Canadian literary culture
My fascination with reading, writing and publishing communities in the Atlantic region of Canada began with my PhD - research that was expanded for my book, Writing the Everyday: Women’s Textual Communities in Atlantic Canada (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2004). There, I explore how and why communities form around texts that record women’s everyday realities, histories, and traditions.
My interest in popular, non-canonical writing is informed by feminist standpoint epistemology (see, for example, my articles in Women’s Studies International Forum 2002b and Atlantis 1999a) - a theoretical approach that has shaped my investigation of textual communities, leading me to combine qualitative interviewing with studies of publishing history, social contexts, textual analysis and, most importantly, close attention to the local histories and oral cultures that many Atlantic writers draw upon in their work (evident in the poetry of Maxine Tynes, see 1999b below; and 2006).
My research has developed into a consideration of the reception of “best-selling” Atlantic Canadian books and films beyond their most immediate communities (2007d; 2008a). In my essay “Strange Terrain” (Essays in Canadian Writing, 2004), for example, I consider how two writers engage with place-myths about Newfoundland that circulate trans-nationally.
Reading communities and cultures of reading in the USA, Canada and UK
“Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading in the UK, USA and Canada” was an ambitious interdisciplinary trans-Atlantic investigation ofshared reading events, which was funded for 3 years by the AHRC (2005-8) and undertaken in collaboration with DeNel Rehberg Sedo (Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada), a communications scholar with expertise on book groups.
A pilot fieldwork study with readers participating in a “One Book, One Community” program in Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge (Canada) and with the agencies involved in the organisation of “One Book, One Chicago” was completed in October 2004, part-funded by the British Academy. This research is informed by my previous work on textual communities and my interest in issues of democratic access to cultural production and literature pursued via my guest editorship of Women’s Studies International Forum (2002) and a co-authored article on the export of Canadian Literature (2000). It also builds upon my commitment to research methodologies that combine empirical and textual approaches to the study of literary cultures (e.g. 2007c; 2008b; 2009a).
The capstone publication for the project is a monograph co-written with DeNel Rehberg Sedo, Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture (Routledge, 2013). Several articles arising from the same research project are already in print (e.g. 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and more are forthcoming. Please see the Beyond the Book website for details of articles, book chapters, podcasts, resources and more information. www.beyondthebookproject.org.
We are continuing with our work on readers and reading with a project called 'Reading Lives', initially funded by the AHRC via the CATH project within the Digital Humanities/Heritage Hub at the University of Birmingham (2013-2014) and now developing further thanks to a Grants for the Arts Award from Arts Council England. We are also members of the AHRC-funded network on Digital Reading, lead by colleagues at Bournemouth University.
During 2012 I gave keynote presentations at a conference on book events at the University of Stirling and on readers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. I also ran a workshop on methods and methodologies for literary research at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne and worked with Estonian MA students at the University of Tartu.
In May 2013 I spoke about our research on readers and reading events at the Hay Literary Festival, and in October 2013 I reprised this talk for U of Birmingham's 'Book to the Future' Literature Festival.
In 2013-2014, I gave research talks at the University of Warwick (Centre for Cultural Policy), the University of Mainz (Centre for the Study of the Book), Resurrecting the Book conference at the new Library of Birmingham, and University of Exeter (English department).
In June 2014, DeNel and I will gave a keynote presentation at the Cultural Crossings: Production, Consumption and Reception Across the US-Canada Border conference at the University of Nottingham as part of a Leverhulme-funded Network initiative lead by Drs Gillian Roberts and David Stirrup.