Two events are being organised in South London libraries:

Memories of Children’s Books, Putney library, 6,30-8pm on 31st May 2017

Our Lives in Libraries, Balham library, 6.30-8pm on 7th June 2017

These will be part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival – further details to follow.



4 September 2014:

Amy Tooth Murphy and Shelley Trower, introducing Memories of Fiction, on the panel Memory and Reading: a View from the Sidelines, with Alison Waller (Roehampton) and Sarah Whiteley (Sheffield), at the Story of Memory, University of Roehampton

Martyn Lyons, The Australian Readers Remember project in retrospect, or why we (still) need an oral history of reading, at the seminar series jointly run by the Oral History Society and Institute of Historical Research. Podcast now available.

6 January 2015: 

OHS-IHR joint seminar with the History of Sexuality: Amy Tooth Murphy (project researcher), ‘The Continuous Thread of Revelation: Chrononormativity and the Challenge of Queer Oral History’. For more information click here. Podcast now available.

2015 seminar series @ University of Roehampton, Fincham 001, Wednesdays – free and open to all:

  • 18 February 2015, 1-2: Shafquat Towheed, ‘Synchronous vs. remembered reading: evidence from the UK Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (UK RED)’.  Outline: With over 31,000 records, the UK Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (UK RED) is the world’s largest single dedicated repository of the experiences of readers in the past. It catalogues the experiences of British readers at home and abroad (and visitors to Britain) over five centuries. Within the database there is considerable recoverable information about when a reading experience and also when it was recorded. While much evidence of reading is recorded at the time or soon after, significant sources rich in evidence of reading (such as memoirs, edited travel journals and autobiographies) are by their very nature, retrospective accounts of remembered reading.  This talk is in two parts: the first half explains how members of the Reading Experience Database team gather data, how we structure and record a ‘reading experience’, and how it is displayed. Specifically, I will be focussing on the ‘when’ of reading: when did the reading take place and how can we capture, record and display this? The second half of my talk looks at some of the methodological and interpretative issues around remembered reading vs. reading that’s recorded at the time or immediately after. We have the full spread of reading evidences in UK RED – from synchronous records of reading at the time they were taking place, to reminiscences of childhood reading many years later, but we have never scrutinized or categorised this chronological variances in records – or whether indeed, they should be thought of as two different types of evidence/reading experience. Pulling out some examples from the project, I will ask whether reading at the time and remembered reading are distinct evidential categories, requiring their own tools for investigation and analysis.
  • PLEASE NOTE THIS SEMINAR IS TO BE REARRANGED FOR THE AUTUMN TERM: 25 February 2015, 4-5: Kate Briggs, ‘And This Is What We Call By the Book’s Name’. Outline: Lecturing on the novel in 1979 at the Collège de France, Roland Barthes noted: we turn our books into pieces of lace. Reading is both the means of activating and experiencing a book and, at the same time, the means by which we turn it into something else. In this talk writer and translator Kate Briggs will discuss an ongoing research project which explores and attempts to find ways of articulating this difference between the book “itself” and what, when thinking or speaking of the it after the fact, we call by the book’s name. She will point to how a handful of writers, literary critics and theorists have identified and wondered about this problem: Robert Louis Stevenson, Percy Lubbock, Vladimir Nabokov, Roland Barthes, Nicholson Baker. She will then describe the workshop she led with readers in Leeds College of Art Library in May 2014 and the work she has produced as a result.
  • 11 March 2015, 1-2: Gill Partington, ‘Taking it literally: Mae Brussell and the misreading of fiction’. Outline: On 16th March 1979 the radio talk show host Mae Brussell recounted reading a book whose contents provoked a violent, visceral reaction, making her nauseous and faint. ‘I had the shakes for about a week’, she reported. The book in question was Alternative 3, an exposé of a sinister global plot at the highest levels. It was also, however, a spoof: a work of fiction, whose contents she misrecognised and quoted to her listeners as factual information. During the 1970s and 80s, Brussell’s radio broadcasts were required listening for conspiracy theory believers across America and beyond. They contained many such accounts of revelatory reading experiences, notable not only for their apocalyptic register, but also for their fundamental and often wilful misreading of fiction and hoax as factual material. This talk examines her retrospective accounts of reading, concentrating on how her interpretations of Alternative 3 and other texts negotiate a complex and shifting boundary between fiction and non-fiction. While her interpretative strategies may be easy to dismiss as just plain wrong, such aberrations reveal much about how the norms of reading function in the first place. Distinguishing between fact and fiction may be the most fundamental stage in deriving meaning from a text, yet it is also a distinction that seems so routine and self-evident that we give it little thought. Brussell’s idiosyncratic reading practices reveal something of its complex workings, however, concentrating not only on content but on context, and on the material circumstances in which books are encountered. Her discussions throw a new light on the kinds of paratextual and contextual information which sets our interpretative parameters as readers.

5 November 2015 at 6pm, Senate House, London: “She used to get lost in a book”: Approaching gendered reading through two archives (Memories of Fiction and 100 Families). Amy Tooth Murphy and Shelley Trower talking about the Memories of Fiction project and its first publication. For more information click here.

11 November 2015 at 4pm, Bournemouth University Narrative Research Group. Title and speakers as above.

8-9 July 2016 Oral History Society conference, co-organised by the Memories of Fiction team: Beyond Text in the Digital Age? Oral History, Images and the Written Word Conference report

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