Thursday, January 20, 2011

Banking Reading

Two online sites to note about historical research on reading are the Reading Experience Database and the “A Place of Reading” Exhibit.

The Reading Experience Database (RED), begun in 1996, is extraordinary—an accumulated collection of descriptions of reading over centuries, from a variety of English language sources (mostly from autobiographies and literature). It is one of the go-to places for learning more about the changing practices of reading.

“A Place of Reading” is a wide-ranging overview of reading in early America, including an image bank of people reading in various private and public spaces. The bank is less expansive than the RED but nevertheless interesting; while iconographic research has somewhat of a hold in music studies, it has not had wide application in literary studies (Garrett Stewart’s The Look of Reading being a notable exception).

It would be great to see more collections of evidence on listening, dancing, viewing, and other audience behaviors about which we know very little historically.

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