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The Past, Present and Future of Reading
- Alice Bell, Edmund King, Maggie Gee

Thursday 1 December, 2:15pm
Commons 137, Bath Spa University
About the event
What does reading look like today? What has it looked like in the past and what can it look like in the future? How does our understanding of what reading is inform the development of new literary forms and practices?

Organized as part of the AHRC funded Ambient Literature research project and celebrating the launch of the Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture, and the Digital research center, this public seminar will discuss the nature of reading and how it fits into the creation of new forms of literature. This seminar will feature Alice Bell, Edmund King, and Maggie Gee in conversation around the idea of reading, its past, present, and future.

A reception will follow.

Dr. Alice Bell is Reader in English language and literature at Sheffield Hallam University, England. Her research specialisms are cognitive poetics, narratology, and digital fiction. Her publications include The Possible Worlds of Hypertext Fiction (2010) and Analyzing Digital Fiction (2014, co-edited with Astrid Ensslin and Hans K. Rustad). She is currently writing Unnatural Narratives and Digital Fiction (with Astrid Ensslin) and editing (with Marie-Laure Ryan) Possible Worlds Theory and Contemporary Narratology (Univ. of Nebraska Press). She is Principal Investigator of the AHRC-funded “Reading Digital Fiction” project which aims to introduce more readers to digital fiction and conduct empirical research to investigate how digital literary reading works cognitively.

Dr. Edmund G. C. King is a Research Fellow in English Literature at The Open University, where (among other things) he works on the Reading Experience Database (http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/reading/UK), the world’s largest searchable repository of historical British reading experiences. In addition to his work in the fields of book history and the history of reading, he also has a background in library digitization. He is currently researching a monograph on the reading practices of British and Australian prisoners of war, 1914–1918, and the charities that tried to provide them with books behind the wire.

Professor Maggie Gee has written 14 books including The White Family, shortlisted for the Orange Prize, two Ugandan political comedies, My Cleaner and My Driver, and Virginia Woolf in Manhattan (2014), a comedy which brings Virginia Woolf back to life in the 21st century. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and in 2012 was awarded an OBE for services to literature. In the same year there was an international conference about her work at St Andrews University. She is currently writing about Neanderthals.

Ambient Literature
The Ambient Literature research project is an AHRC funded multi-university partnership designed to study and implement new kinds of literary experiences. Building on previous work in areas such as pervasive media, locative literature, ubiquitous computing, and electronic literature, ambient literature looks to expand the experience of reading beyond just the written word on the page. Taking advantage of contemporary advancements and trends in computing (smartphones, GPS, sensors, global networks, etc.), ambient literature aims to link the context and situation of the reader (variously considered) to literary works. It looks to define and implement a vision of what reading and writing can look like in an increasing technological and interconnected world.

Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture, and the Digital
The Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture, and the Digital Research Centre at Bath Spa University brings together scholars, creative practitioners, and cultural professionals to explore the book as a created artefact and an object of study. The center is interested in the diverse forms that books can take, the people who make them, the act of making itself, and the places in which books are created, made, disseminated, and accessed. It is interested in readers and reading practices, in print and digital culture, in technology, media and remediation, in book design and the book arts, in issues of access and preservation, and in the broader intellectual, cultural, social, economic, legal, and political frameworks that shape the world of the book. Bringing together a diversity of perspectives including book history and bibliography; typography, design and the book arts; theories of creative practice; the digital humanities; contemporary publishing practices, the center explores the book’s past, present, and future. 

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