When we think of the way 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 Rowland discusses her current research into a particular coterie of Boston readers who regularly gathered to discuss the works of John Keats at the turn of the twentieth century. 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.