‘Un/Disciplining Reading’ Symposium

Organised by Sarah Comyn and Porscha Fermanis (UCD), the ‘Un/Disciplining Reading’ symposium was held on 15-16 September 2023. As part of the UCD ‘Thresholds of Knowledge’ research strand, the symposium was generously supported by the UCD College of Arts and Humanities and the UCD Humanities Institute. Thank you to our wonderful host venues: the Royal Irish Academy and Kilmainham Gaol (especially Brian Crowley).

Thank you also to our keynote speaker, Prof. Christina Lupton (Copenhagen and Warwick), for her timely intervention into (and beyond) the ‘reading wars’ by foregrounding instead the relationship between the history/practice of reading and the history/practice of work. A podcast of Tina’s keynote, ‘The Reader as Part-Time Worker’, can be accessed here:

The Symposium CFP and programme are below:

Even in its most disinterested and leisurely form, reading is not a natural or neutral practice. As Michael Warner reminds us in The Letters of the Republic (1990), the’ linguistic technologies’ of ‘speaking, reading, writing, and printing’ are never ‘unmediated by such forms of domination as race, gender, and status’. At the same time, as Christina Lupton has shown in Reading and the Making of Time (2018), reading can cut across homogenous empty time, work-discipline, and the temporalities of commodity capitalism in a nonlinear fashion. Reading can therefore act both as a mode of discipline and as a potentially radical practice, unmoored from the clock and calendar.

This symposium on ‘Un/Disciplining Reading’ at University College Dublin invites colleagues working on any century, language, or cultural space to think about reading as a practice with both disciplinary modes and ways of encouraging the possibility of radical change. It encourages colleagues, too, to think about the history of reading as a discipline and the ways in which we might ‘undiscipline’ it, including new modes and methods of research and ways of rethinking and unmaking the field. In 2004, Leah Price characterised the history of reading as a field without consensus, one that ‘still looks less like a field than a battleground’ (‘Reading: The State of the Discipline’). This conference aims to engage with that view via new and emerging work in the field. 

Un/Disciplining Reading: Dublin, 15-16 September 2023

Day 1: Friday 15 September, Royal Irish Academy

9:30 Welcome and Registration

9:45-10:45 Keynote Address 

Chair: Porscha Fermanis (UCD)

Christina Lupton (University of Copenhagen/Warwick): When Your Job is to Read After Work: Novels and their Critics since 1800

10:45 Comfort Break

10:50-11:45 Reading Value 

Chair: Seán Hewitt (TCD)

Sophie Corser (University College Cork): Another Form of Love? Criticism, Reading, Work

Adam Kelly (University College Dublin): What is (Ghost)Reading in the Age of (Ghost)Writing?

11:45 Coffee Break 

12:00-1:15 Reading Objects 

Chair: Sarah Comyn (UCD)

Gill Partington (IES, University of London): Unruly Hands and Undisciplined Reading

Tapasya Narang (University College Dublin): Transnational Reading Networks and Little Magazines from Bombay (1960-1980)

Sarah Pyke (Anglia Ruskin University): ‘Pages alleged to be offensive’: Extraliterary Reading and Queer Censorship in 1980s Britain

1:15 Lunch (provided)

2:15-3:30 Reading Histories 1

Chair: James Little (UCD)

Andrew Murphy (Trinity College Dublin): Reading Shakespeare in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow): Trends, Quiddities and Absences in Scottish Institutional Reading, 1750-1830

Dan Wall (University of Aberdeen): Undisciplining the Romantic Periodical: Unruly Readers in Print Communities, 1817-1825

3:30 Coffee Break

4:00-5:00 Reading Histories 2 

Chair: Sarah Comyn (UCD)

Anna Johnston (University of Queensland): Reading in the ‘Sea-Girt Prison’: Print Culture on Norfolk Island, 1840-44

Hannah Joy Friedman (University of Zurich): Insubordinate Texts and Unpredictable Readers in the Viceroyalty of Peru

6:30 Symposium Dinner (Dunne and Crescenzi, South Frederick St)

Day 2: Saturday 16 September, Kilmainham Gaol

10:00-11:15 Incarcerated and Vulnerable Readers 

Chair: Adam Kelly (UCD)

James Little (University College Dublin): What Reading Means When Reading is Not Allowed: Reading in the Magdalene Oral History Archive

Iryna Kovalchuk (University College Dublin): Reading on the Frontline in the Russo-Ukrainian War

Sinead Moriarty and Alison Kirkpatrick (Verbal Arts Centre/Trinity College Dublin): Shared Reading and Expressive Writing: A Co-facilitated Model

11:15 Coffee Break (Brambles Café)

11:45-12.45 Queer, Neurodivergent, and Reparative Reading 

Chair: Porscha Fermanis (UCD)

Malcolm Noble (Leicester Vaughan College): Where was my Heartstopper? Using Ideas of Reparative Reading to Understand Older Readers of Queer YA Literature

Rebekka Kiesewetter (Coventry University): Reading Differently: Towards Greater Knowledge Equity and Diversity in Scholarly Knowledge Production

12:45 Lunch (Brambles Café or Patriot’s Inn)

2:00-3:00 Tour of Kilmainham Gaol

3:00 Symposium Close

As part of the ‘Thresholds of Knowledge’ research strand, this symposium was generously supported by the UCD College of Arts and Humanities and the UCD Humanities Institute.

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