The Reader in the Book: Books, Reading and Libraries in Fiction, a conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies, will take place on 18, 19, 25 and 26 March 2021.
It is not hard to find fiction within fiction. Don Quixote modelled himself on chivalric romances, and became in turn a model for other fictional characters; Lord Peter Wimsey collected incunabula; there is a Gutenberg Bible at Blandings Castle. Fictional libraries are spaces of danger and safety, both public and private: bodies are discovered in libraries, ghosts haunt them, or readers retreat into libraries to escape the outside world. Fictional readers and the domestic sphere often intersect – especially in reading women and children’s literature – and books become a home, or an escape from domesticity for characters. Catherine Morland, for example, reads her own life through gothic romances, and Jane Eyre curls up with Bewick to escape Gateshead Hall. Characters in fiction are often found with books and in libraries; we are often reading readers.
This conference, the second in a series on reading and libraries at the IES, examines the social and domestic depictions of books, reading, and libraries in fiction: what was and was not read, what this says about the context of the works in which it appears, and what it indicates about the reception of books more widely, in text and illustration. Studying such depictions enables a comparison between fact and fiction, and asks the question: how far does fiction mirror reality?
The READ-IT OU team will demonstrate project resources on 18 March, and Shaf Towheed will be giving one of the plenary talks on 25 March. The full programme is available and registration is open here.