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Literary Readings as Performance

On the Career of Contemporary Writers in the New Ireland

Helena Wulff

Drawing on an anthropological study of the social organisation of the world of Irish writers, this article investigates the literary reading as performance which has become central for the career and promotion of contemporary writers. How is the reading - live as well as recorded - constituted, and how is it experienced from the writer's point of view? The data are derived from participant observation and interviews at literary festivals and conferences, writers' retreats, book launches and more informal situations with writers, as well as from fiction and essays by the writers. For this article, I asked some of the writers to write short texts on the reading. It turned out that the frames of the reading as performance reach beyond the reading event, and also that a reading includes elements of risk, such as not attracting a big enough audience or performing badly. Finally, the article considers the changing role of the ethnographer.

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Suzan Hirsch

This paper reports on case studies spanning four consecutive years (2005-2008) focused on addressing and challenging Australian primary school boys’ disengagement with English, particularly reading, using an action research process informed by both quantitative and qualitative data. Primary participants were all male and ranged from 8 to 11 years of age. Boys were identified and selected for each case study based on the questionnaire and interview results from whole grade surveys of both males and females. The data results identified the boys with negative views of literacy and boys who identified reading as being a feminine activity, thereby narrowing their perceptions of masculinity. These boys were involved in a reading/mentoring program with high profile professional Rugby League players. The celebrity rugby league players were involved in ten weekly mentoring and reading sessions with male participants each year. These sessions focused on building positive male identity, shifting negative attitudes to reading and challenging negative stereotypes of both professional sportsmen and boys as readers. After each of the case studies, quantitative and qualitative data indicated a positive change in the participants’ attitudes towards reading as well as their perceived stereotypes of males as readers and increased involvement in voluntary reading.

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Books Are Boring! Books Are Fun!

Boys’ Polarized Perspectives on Reading

Laura Scholes

This article draws on interview data gathered from a broader study concerned with examining issues associated with boys, masculinities, and reading at school. The focus is on eight boys in Years 5 and 6 who attend schools in a range of socioeconomic communities in Australia. The boys offer polarized perspectives on reading, with four boys reporting positive attitudes toward reading and describing reading books as “fun” and another four boys describing reading books as “boring.” Examined are inflections in these two groups of boys’ experiences as readers at school, making visible the way boys’ attitudes influence engagement with reading. This research moves beyond broad generalizations about boys to consider complexities inherent in notions of masculinity and how different groups of boys internalize their positioning of reading in ways that influence their attitudes, engagement, and subsequently outcomes in reading.

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The Cultural Divide

Book Reading as a Signifier of Boundaries among Co-Cultures in Israeli Society

Hanna Adoni and Hillel Nossek

This article investigates the function of book reading in a society consisting of a multiplicity of ethno-cultural communities, asking whether book reading functions as a unifying factor within each ethno-cultural community or as a dividing factor and as a signifier of boundaries between them. It is based on multiyear survey data among representative samples of Israeli urban adults (1970, 1990, 2001-2002, 2007, and 2011), focus groups, and analysis of bestseller lists (2001, 2002). The article demonstrates that book reading functions as a signifier of boundaries within Israeli society, namely between ethno-cultural co-cultures of veteran Jewish Israelis, Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Israeli Arabs. This supports Morley and Robins's claim that cultural consumption may be a divisive factor between the co-cultures within nation-states.

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Matthew C. Ally

Joseph S. Catalano, Reading Sartre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 213pp., $25.99 (paperback) ISBN 978-0-521-15227-3; $85.00 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-521-76646-3

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Sheila Shulman

I have been asked to say something about the ‘overall goal’ of teaching/ reading the open-ended and growing body of texts so awkwardly collected under the rubric of ‘Theology, Philosophy, History’. That body of texts might more reasonably be called Post-Classical Jewish Studies, since it encompasses everything outside of what is usually understood as ‘Rabbinic Literature’, yet it is as much a part of our ‘textual tradition’ as the Bavli and the great collections of Midrashim. I can only speak to, and for, what I am closest to: the Jewish texts of ‘modernity’, ‘post-modernity’, and, by now, what might need to be called ‘post-post-modernity’. Of course, many (most?) of these texts exist in a loving, intimate, though often conflictual ‘dialogue’ with their textual predecessors, even when they appear to be in rebellion or repudiation.

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Erin Newcomb

Sarah Rothschild. 2013. The Princess Story: Modeling the Feminine in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film. New York: Peter Lang.

Amy S. Pattee. 2011. Reading the Adolescent Romance: Sweet Valley High and the Popular Young Adult. New York: Routledge.

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Gary Day

Peter Reading’s work provokes two questions about poetry; what is it and what is its role in the modern world? Perhaps the very fact that his writing poses these questions provides a positive answer to his query ‘am I art?’;1 since it is part of the job of art to raise fundamental issues. But art also has other qualities of transformation and transcendence which Reading’s work seems to lack. ‘I DO NOT’, he asserts, ‘transcend pain with poetry’ (‘On the Other Hand’, CP1, 167). We need to distinguish here between at least two traditions in British poetry, one lyrical and the other conceptual. Reading’s work partakes of both but favours the latter. In many ways, he is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot in the choice of subject matter, classical allusion and mixture of registers. The difference is that whereas Eliot believed that poetry could be a vehicle for the redemption of modernity, Reading gives it no such privileged status. It does not stand apart from other discourses but confronts, embraces and is contained by them. Hence we find in Reading, among other registers, those of geology, chemistry, physics, biology, ornithology, medicine, Latin quotations, journalese, letters from local newspapers, adverts offering country barns at knock down prices and the demotic. The effect is, to say the least, jarring but it does serve, perhaps, to negate social meaning by the elevation of form, which is normally invisible in our dominant ‘realistic’ representations. It also challenges our traditional ideas of verse as do his prose poems, collages, typographical experiments and crossings out – the latter finding an echo in Derrida’s idea that writing should always be presented under erasure.

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Naughtiest Girls, Go Girls, and Glitterbombs

Exploding Schoolgirl Fictions

Lucinda McKnight

In this article I consider the white British and Australian schoolgirl through a notionally comparative study of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl in the School (1940–1952) series and the contemporary Go Girl (2005–2012) series, texts spanning my lived experience as girl, mother, and teacher. Through incendiary fragments of memory and media, I, as researcher and writer, seek the girl addressed by these texts and consider the struggles, denials, and ambivalences that produce and are produced by reading the schoolgirl. This girl resists historical determinism, coalescing as contemporaneous past, present, and future as the reader performs her own girlhood through reading and writing. This creative analytical article notices the visual and physical manifestations of texts, as well as their linguistic discourses. Through this work, we perceive postfeminist entanglement in the ongoing re-configuration of the schoolgirl, with implications for policy and practice in education and for cultural and girlhood studies.

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Stiles X. Simmons and Karen M. Feathers

Critical literacy instruction has been offered as a means of improving the historically low reading achievement of African American boys. This study examined the impact of two strategies, disconnections and problem posing, on the critical literacy development of upper elementary African American boys. The boys were engaged in six instructional sessions using the strategies to foster discussion. Transcripts of the boys’ discussions across the sessions demonstrate that the strategies promoted the boys’ engagement in critical discussion, including comparing the text with their own life experiences, considering relationships between characters, and exploring the potential influence of the author’s gender on the story. In a short time period, the boys made substantial progress toward critical literacy.