I describe my research as a sociology of literature. The interdisciplinary work has theoretical foundation in French cultural theorist Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of social and cultural capital, symbolic power and power structures, cultural fields, and habitus; American Educational and Media philosopher Douglas Kellner’s understanding of contemporary media, and media spectacle in particular; American sociologist Paul DiMaggio’s categorical hierarchies of taste and individual/collective/institutional agency influenced by class positions; and, Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith’s feminist standpoint theory and her theory of ruling relations of power. The work might be situated within the interdisciplinary fields of communication, cultural, and cyber studies.
The consistent thread through my work is an interdisciplinary analysis that accounts for the changing forms of the book, the platforms and communication channels on which readers articulate their experiences, and the ways that readers connect to other readers, and to authors, publishers and booksellers. My long-time research partner, Danielle Fuller, and I conceptualised the relationship among these agents as ‘the reading industry’ for our study of mass reading events (the term we came up with for formally organized, mass-mediated public shared reading programmes). This enabled us to name and create a framework for critiquing the various social and economic structures that produce contemporary cultures of reading.
I approach the professional field of Communication in which I teach much as I do the reading cultures that I investigate. Power relations are at the crux of my research interests. I want to know who has it and why, what do they do with it, and to what effect.
Using mixed methods that transfer across disciplinary inquiry, I investigate reading as a socially embedded activity. I analyse and critique media production and representation of contemporary and historical reading practices. I explore the production itself and people’s interpretations of those representations, the literature people read, and the articulations of their reading experiences. Moreover, I critically assess the relationships that form around cultural participation. These analyses necessarily consider the broader social, cultural and political contexts in which we live. Because of my scholarly “training” in cultural studies criticism, I privilege the concepts of gender, class, sexuality, occupation, ethnicity, and religion in my research.
Beyond the Book is my large, international research project. I loved this project, and am so proud of all that Danielle and I did to create solid research that will help us better understand the role of reading in our lives (at least in our lives in NA and the UK). We surrounded ourselves with incredibly smart team members, and met unbelievably kind and giving people in our travels. The fruits of our efforts — read resources—are available for you to peruse on our webpage. Our book is called Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture. We’ve created chapter abstracts for your perusal pleasure.
Below are details of my work to date as they appear on my curricula vitae. Some of them have links, some of them don’t. If you think my research will inform your own, please email me and I’ll send you electronic versions if I have them. I’m also proud to say that I work with the most excellent librarians and archivists in the world at MSVU. They’ve made some of my work publicly available through the MSVU Digital Commons.
BOOKS AND MONOGRAPHS (Refereed)
(2013). With Fuller, D. Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture. Routledge Research in Cultural and Media Studies. London and New York, NY: Routledge.
(2011). Editor. Reading Communities from Salons to Cyberspace. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
BOOK CHAPTERS (Refereed)
(in press). With Fuller, D. ‘Shared Reading and Mass Reading Events in North America and the UK in the Twenty-First Century’. Adapted extract from Chapter 1 of Reading Beyond the Book translated into French for a collection edited by Professors Brigitte Ouvry-Vial (U de Maine, France) and Lodovica Braida (U of Milan, Italy) to be published by Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
(2016). With Fuller, D. “Fun… and other reasons for sharing reading with strangers: “Mass Reading Events and the Possibilities of Pleasure. In Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, Knut Oterholm, Paulette M. Rothbauer and Kjell Ivar Skjerdingstad, eds. Plotting the Reading Experience: Theory/Practice/Politics (pp. 133-147). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
(2012). With Fuller, D. “Mixing it Up: Using Mixed Methods Research to Investigate Contemporary Cultures of Reading.” In Anouk Lang (Ed.), From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century (pp. 234-251). Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
(2011). “Introduction to Reading Communities.” In D. Rehberg Sedo (Ed.), Reading Communities from Salons to Cyberspace (pp. 1-24). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
(2011). “‘I Used to Read Anything That Caught My Eye, but…’: Cultural Authority and Intermediaries in a Virtual Young Adult Book Club.” In Reading Communities from Salons to Cyberspace (pp. 101-122). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
(2011). With Fuller, D. & Squires, C. “Marionettes and Puppeteers?: The Relationship Between Book Club Readers and Publishers” In Reading Communities From Salons To Cyberspace (pp. 181-199). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
(2011). “Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Literary Communities.” In Leonard Cassuto, Claire Virginia Eby, Benjamin Reiss (Eds.), The Cambridge History of the American Novel (pp. 1154-1167). New York: Cambridge University Press.
(2011). With Fuller, D. “Suspicious Minds: Richard & Judy’s Book Club and its Resistant Readers.” In Jenni Ramone and Helen Cousins (Eds.), The Richard and Judy Book Club Reader (pp. 21-42). Farnham, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.
(2007). Reading and Study Groups. In Carole Gerson & Jacques Michon (Eds.), History of the Book in Canada (Vol. III) (pp. 509-513). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
(2005). Case Study: A Victoria Immigrant’s Reading–Introducing Margaret Mcmicking. In Fiona Black, Patricia Lockhart Fleming & Yvan Lamonde (Eds.), History of the Book in Canada (Vol. II) (pp. 470-481). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
SCHOLARLY JOURNAL ARTICLES (Refereed)
(2015). With Harder, A. and Howard, V. Creating Cohesive Community Through Shared Reading: A Case Study of One Book Nova Scotia. Partnerships: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 10(1).
(2014). With Fuller, D. ‘Reproducing “the Wow Factor”?: Negotiating the Values of Reading Through One Book, One Community Events.’ In Patrick Spedding and Anna Poletti (eds.) ‘Revealing the Reader’. Special issue of Australian Humanities Review 56 (May 2014): 163-186.
(2014). With Fuller, D. ‘“And then we went to the brewery”: Reading as a Social Activity in a Digital Era.’ Popular feature commissioned for World Literature Today 88.3: 14-18.
(2012) With Gruzd, A. #1b1t: Investigating Reading Practices at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century. Mémoires du livre / Studies in Book Culture, 3(2).
(2010). Cultural Capital and Community in Contemporary City-wide Reading Programs. Memoires du Livre/Studies in Book Culture, 2(1).
(2009, copyright 2010). With Fuller, D. & Thurlow, A. More than “Just a Little Library Program”: Discourses of Power in One Book, One Community Programming Committees. Logos, 20(1-4), pp. 228-240.
(2008). With Rodrigues, D. Experiencing Information Literacy in Second Life. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 3(1).
(2008). ‘Richard & Judy’s Book Club’ and ‘Canada Reads’: Readers, Books and Cultural Programming in a Digital Era. Information, Communication and Society 11(2), pp. 188 – 206.
(2006). With Fuller, D. A Reading Spectacle for the Nation: The CBC and “Canada Reads”. Journal of Canadian Studies, 40(1), pp. 5-36.
(2003). Readers in Reading Groups: An On-Line Survey of Face-To-Face and Virtual Book Clubs. Convergence: The Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 9(1), pp. 66-90.
BOOK REVIEWS FOR SCHOLARLY JOURNALS (Non-refereed)
(2017). Book Review: Reading Across Worlds: Transnational Book Groups and the Reception of Difference by James Procter and Bethan Benwell. SHARP Newsletter.
(2012). Book Review: Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000–2009 by S. Persky. Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, 50(2), pp. 282-85.
(2005). Book Review: Treasures: The Stories Women Tell About the Things They Keep by K. V. Cairns and E. Leslau Silverman. Atlantis, 29.3(Fall), pp. 90-91.
(2002). Book review: Fiction and the American Literary Marketplace: The Role of Newspaper Syndicates, 1860-1900 by C. Johnanningsmeier. JHISTORY@H-NET.MSU.EDU, List for discussion of history of journalism and mass communication. December 2, 2002, from http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~jhistory.
(2002). Book review: A Heretic in American Journalism Education and Research: Malcolm S. MacLean, Jr., Revisited edited by L. Manca and G. W. Pieper. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 26(4), pp. 109-112.
(2001). Book review: Global Infatuation: Explorations in Transnational Publishing and Texts, the Case of Harlequin Enterprises and Sweden by E. Hemmungs Wirtén. LOGOS, 12(3), pp. 156-165.
ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRIES (Refereed)
(2017). Reading Reception in the Digital Era. Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Literature. New York, NY.
(2013, 2004). Measures/measuring. In R. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Public Relations, Vols. 1 & 2. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.
(2013, 2004). Symbolic Interactionism Theory. In R. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Public Relations, Vols. 1 & 2. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.
(2013, 2004). Revised edition with Wah, J. International Association of Business Communicators. In R. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Public Relations, Vols. 1 & 2. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.
(2003). Book Clubs and Reading Groups. In K. Christensen & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World (pp. 97-99). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
MULTI-MEDIA PRODUCTIONS AND MATERIALS (Non-refereed)
(Various). With Fuller, D. Video and audio resources for cultural workers and the general public. Beyond the Book project web site.
RESEARCH REPORTS (Non-refereed)
(2004). With Fuller, D. White paper: Report on One Book, One Community, Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo, ON, Canada. Beyond the Book project web site.
OTHER PUBLICATIONS (Non-refereed)
(2006). Taking Responsible Risks. ESC: English Studies in Canada 32(4), 21-24.
(2004). With Richards, T. Journalists and Official Sources. Media Magazine, 10(4), 18-19.
(2002). Predictions of Life after Oprah: A Glimpse at the Power of Book Club Readers. Publishing Research Quarterly, 18(3), 11-22.
(1998). Gathering in the Name of Literature. The New Reader, 3(1), 46-48.