Ravenstein Seminar 2015

Reading and Readerships: Evolutions of the Literary Experience

Date: January 22-23, 2015; introductory workshop for RMA-students on January 21
Venue: University of Amsterdam. tba
Credit: 5-6 EC
Registration RMa programme
Note: RMa Programme is fully booked, please send us an e-mail with your name, university and research school. We will put you on our waiting list.
Registration PhD programme


Confirmed speakers:

  • Jim Collins (University of Notre Dame)
  • Liesbeth Korthals Altes (University of Groningen)
  • Adriaan van der Weel (Leiden University)
  • Gaston Franssen (University of Amsterdam)
  • Dan Hassler Forest (University of Amsterdam)

There are good reasons to doubt that reading has ever been reducible to the individual act of immersion and seclusion that nineteenth-century conceptions of aesthetic response depicted it to be. Digital technologies and transformations of literary culture, however, have recently rendered this conception more questionable than ever. The growing popularity of literary festivals, online discussion forums, book clubs and amateur reviews seems to signal the end of ‘civilized reading’, as Jim Collins has sardonically put it, and foregrounds a view of readership and reading as an interactive process and shared experience. These developments call for an analysis of the ways in which new types of readers experience, interpret, and process literature. As Rita Felski has noted in Uses of Literature (2008), “any attempt to clarify the value of literature must surely engage the diverse motives of readers and ponder the mysterious event of reading”. At the 2015 Ravenstein Seminar, we will analyze both contemporary as well as historical transformations of ‘the literary experience’ by charting and contrasting the individual and collective dimensions of literary consumption, participation, and appraisal. More information will follow soon.

Introductory workshop for RMA-students

Wednesday, January 21, 10:00-17:30
Organization: Sander Bax (UvT) & Stephan Besser (UvA)

The purpose of this one-day workshop is to introduce graduate students to the topic of this year’s Ravenstein Winter School and prepare them for participation in the seminar on the following two days. To this end we will read and discuss passages from seminal theoretical texts on reading and readership, e.g. Wolfgang Iser’s The Act of Reading (1978) and Rita Felski’s The Uses of Literature (2008), as well as key publications of some of the speakers presenting at the conference, in particular Jim Collins’ Bring on the Books for Everybody (2010). In this way, students will familiarize themselves with the two related focal points of the Ravenstein seminar, namely recent and historical transformations of literary culture and their impact on conceptions of readership, forms of reading and the “literary experience” (for instance through book clubs, online review platforms and various forms of reader participation and transmedia storytelling). The discussions in the workshop will produce a set of questions and critical observations that the students can contribute to the conference meetings on Thursday and Friday. To connect these discussions to actual research practices in the field, Sandra van Voorst and Jeanette ten Toonder (RUG) will present their NWO-funded research project Gedeelde literatuur: cultuuroverdracht door leesgroepen in the afternoon session of the workshop (in Dutch). The reading list for the workshop will follow in the first week of December.

Credits: In order to get credits for the Ravenstein seminar RMA-students have to fulfill the following requirements: 1) They have to be present on all three days of the Winter School, i.e. in the graduate workshop and the seminar itself, and actively participate in the discussions, in particular in the RMA-workshop. 2) They have to study the reading materials and prepare discussion points and other small assignments for the workshop. 3) They have to prepare a portfolio of 3000 words that contains brief reports and more extensive reflections on selected presentations given during the conference, relating them to workshop discussions and, possibly, their own research interests.

The deadline for the portfolios is Monday, Febr 2 (please send your portfolio to s.besser@uva.nl); more specific instructions for the preparation of the portfolios will follow. Students who fulfill all these requirements will receive a certificate on 5 EC from OSL that they can exchange for credit at their local graduate school. Students who want to receive 6 EC have to prepare a more extensive portfolio of 4500 words and announce this intention to the organizers of the workshop as early as possible (but in any case before the end of the seminar).