Read Carefully!

Conceptualizing Reading as Care in The Book of Form & Emptiness and My Salinger Year


Reading and care are two concepts which inspire extensive discussions in current research, especially because both of them are perceived to be in crisis and, as a result, reconsidered and re-conceptualized. Despite this fact and despite conceptual overlaps in areas such as attention, affect and attachment, reading and care have not been contextualized or studied in relationship to each other comprehensively. Delving deeper into intersections of reading and care, this article inquires which concepts of reading emerge when it is viewed through the lens of care. Studying the two contemporary American works My Salinger Year and The Book of Form & Emptiness, the _Article analyzes how reading can constitute acts of caring about, caring for, and self-care. This introduces new perspectives on reading as a practice embedded in broader socio-cultural issues it mirrors and participates in, highlighting functions ascribed to reading.

Doing Seminar Reading

Ways and Detours of Reading/Not-Reading Seminar Texts and Papers as Actors


Reading scholarly articles is a core practice in academic seminars, which proceed under the assumption that seminar participants have read assigned texts and will incorporate the knowledge acquired from these texts into seminar discussions and train reading techniques. However, this seemingly self-evident situation perhaps only represents an ideal rather than actual seminar practices. This Science and Technology Studies-oriented contribution based on qualitative empirical research (participant observation, self-study, short interviews, forum theater experiments) will show how, where, when, and why students and lecturers do read texts, and what tactics they use when they have not read the texts ‘properly,’ ‘fully,’ or at all. How do they perform reading/not-reading; how does reading/not-reading bias knowledge circulation? In this hybrid process of collective and individual reading, reading and discussing seem to be intertwined, and texts become effective as actors, for example as digital scans or piles of paper. Reading and text-based discussions are material knowledge practices that entangle and are entangled in hegemonial arrangements. My aim is to make visible and negotiable an often self-evidently accomplished performativity of collective and individual reading, in its concrete and diverse practices, in order to work productively with the epistemological and didactic consequences.

Reading for Distance

Form, Memory, and Space in Contemporary Novels of Migration


This essay proposes a reading ‘posture’ for fictions of migration that focuses on the concept of distance. By ‘posture,’ I mean an awareness of representations and uses of distance, in both form and content, through which the reader will gain a different perspective on socio-political and ethical questions emerging in fictions of migration. After an overview of approaches to the meanings of distance through philosophical, narratological, and mobility studies, I examine distance in contemporary novels of migration. This analysis considers representations of digital and surveillance technologies and reflects on their ability to “compress” distances. It also deals with distance as a temporal concept affecting memories. Two case studies are examined by paying attention to the role of distance in their formal and thematic characteristics. Exit West compresses the distance between countries and problematizes our understanding of borders and states through the literary device of the portals. The autodiegetic narrator in Open City explicitly and often lingers on distance and his understanding of it. As a character he chooses to put distance between himself and his home country, between his past and his present life. As a consequence, distance between the character-narrator and the reader is created and remains unresolved.

Political Reading Artifacts

A Conceptual Approach on Characterizing a Certain Way of Reading


Empirical reading research lacks informed distinctions among different ways of reading, which often leads to generalized and superficial conclusions about the functionality of reading in society. This is also the case for political communication, which defines reading most often simply as the mental processing of textual political information. This article proposes a more elaborated, interdisciplinary framework to distinguish political reading as ‘different’ from other ways of reading based on common attributes of their reading objects. Thereby, political reading processes, demeanors, strategies, activities, and practices are induced as ‘political’ by pre-arranged combinations of typical communicative and material objects and designs.

On Reading Reading

Fundamental Problems of “Méta-lecture”


In his essay “Sur la Lecture,” Roland Barthes (1984) expresses his doubts regarding what he calls “Méta-lecture,” or the reading of reading. It is nothing but “un éclat d’idées, de craintes, de désirs, de jouissances, d’oppressions.” My essay proposes that the ideas, fears, desires, jouissances and opressions evoked when discussing reading deserve a closer examination. There should be a systematic discussion about the problems of “Méta-lecture.” The discourse about reading has its own problems, tropes, and ways of expression. Regardless of where or in what context a text about reading is written, it faces the same fundamental problems in regarding its subject: reading is a black box. Some may even doubt the existence of a common conceptual intersection in the spectrum of practices referred to as reading (Honold/Parr 2018). This highlights the essential indefinability of the concept of reading. What reading is in each case can hardly be reduced to a general concept. This indeterminacy is complicated by the difficulties of observation: reading cannot be isolated as such, but can only be observed as it is performed within specific contexts. Furthermore, this act of observation itself involves reading and is thus always self-reflective. In my essay, I demonstrate the strategies employed by texts on reading from different periods (Ickelsamer 1527, Keyn 1803, Moretti 2013, Wolf 2018) to compensate for the indeterminancy of reading.

Digital Reading in the Context of Media-Critical Discourses


With the transformation of media in the context of digitization, reading is once again becoming a highly debated topic. Not only are fears being expressed that the end of the ‘Gutenberg Galaxy’ will set back the spread of reading as a cultural technique, but more recent debates discuss the consequences of ‘digital reading’ from pedagogical and neurophysiological perspectives. The aim of this paper is to analyze the media and cultural debates about the consequences of digital reading. The different varieties and reference discourses of the discussion will be distinguished and related to the history of discourses critical of reading. The pedagogical critique of ‘digital reading’ is based on the thesis that it can lead to a diminution of cognitive abilities. The materiality of reading media and the physicality of the reading process are attributed with far-reaching mental and psychological effects. Furthermore, from a culturally pessimistic perspective, the spread of digital reading is seen as a cultural caesura that threatens the ability to think critically and empathize. The central reference discourse for the plausibility of the alleged dangers of digital reading is neuroscientific studies.

A Memoir of My Reading


Surveying nearly seven decades of habitual and obsessive reading, I consider how my character and psychology used reading to shape philosophical questions that move me into forms in which I could pursue them by reading. This became both the method and the substance of my philosophical work. It preserved some core emotional issues but also gave me the way to integrate them into scholarship and into my life.

Please Go Away… We’re Reading

A Practice Approach to a Taken-for-Granted Academic Craft


Reading is not only a mental decoding activity but also a social, material, bodily, and affective practice. It is learned; changes over time; varies across situations; and is crucial for academic institutions. Nonetheless, academics practice reading largely individually. Yet, reading remains an undervalued part of how professional research (work) is done. In this paper, we take a practice-oriented approach: How is reading enacted as a seemingly self-evident academic technique? Drawing on Science & Technology Studies and collective auto-ethnographic reflections of our readings in the RUSTlab at Ruhr University Bochum, we explore how reading is structured with respect to different goals—be it for critique, fun, teaching, or writing. We consider aspects of the material infrastructure such as pens and (missing) couches, and analyze how situations, bodies, and settings enact and afford different modes of reading. We organize the modes of reading into reading about, reading around, and reading aloud. This paper argues that reading is a craft that requires care and companionship, and that it matters who gets to read, when and where reading is done, and what the legitimate excuses for not reading are. We polemicize that academics would do well to bring reading practices from the individualized margins to the heart of collective exchange.

“In this space, all the stories are alive.”

In Conversation with Thea Mantwill and Jana Buch about Reading (in) their Literary Exhibition 13 Morgen


In their literary exhibition 13 Morgen, displayed at Kunst im Tunnel (KIT; ‘Art in the tunnel’) in Düsseldorf from March until June 2023, the two authors and artists Thea Mantwill and Jana Buch invited visitors to read at the museum. The exhibition combines literary texts with installation art, visual art, and book design. In conversation, Thea Mantwill and Jana Buch provide detailed insights into what it takes to bring reading to the museum, the reading atmospheres they aim to create, as well as the roles which time, space, and mediality play for 13 Morgen.

Dutiful Reader, or…


Dutiful Reader, or, a Part-Playful, Part-Earnest Experimental Autofiction on the Fascinating and Inexhaustible Subject of How Reading is Variously Learned, Conceptualized and Practiced, which Takes Account of Socio-Political Forces and Historical Change and Whose Mode of Narration is Meandering and Discontinuous, Juxtaposing, neither Arbitrarily nor with Adherence to a Predetermined or Obvious Logic, Autobiographical Fragments, Personal Observations and Reflections, as Well as Extensive Citations Drawn from Diverse Genres and Contexts, to Create a Potentially Unendingly Expanding and Reshaping Narrative-Assemblage Designed to Be Evasive of Prediction and to Generate Increasingly Complex Feedback Loops between the Writerly Text and the Reader, Who Will Encounter during the Course of Her/His/Their Wondrous, Experiential and Transformational Adventure, Inter Alia and in No Particular Sequence, a Child Reading Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Alone in Bed on a Night His Mother Has Gone Out, Twelve Members of a Jury Reading an Obscene Book Pre-trial in a Room at the Old Bailey, Malcolm X Teaching Himself to Read in Prison by Diligently Copying out the Pages of a Dictionary, Anthropologists, Police Officers and Laypeople Reading Human and Nonhuman Bodies Sometimes with Deadly Consequences, the Second Reading of a Bill in the U.K. House of Commons to Tackle Illiteracy by Introducing a Phonetic Teaching Alphabet, Harlem Renaissance Author Nella Larsen Inspecting the Hands of Children Readers in the Lower East Side Library Where She Worked, and Primary School Teachers Reading Evidence of Terrorism in Poor Spelling, and All of Which Concludes with the Startling Revelation of Why the Cat in the Hat wears White Gloves, Dutiful Reader Having Finally Executed His Duty and Reached the End of the Book.