A Bit of Speculative Fiction

This morning I submitted a fellowship application. Since there is a whopping 7 percent acceptance rate, I’m considering it something of a cross between a lottery ticket and a short work of speculative fiction.

The government site used to collect the application was a trip – instead of a web form it uses a baroque Adobe Acrobat form, which got extremely offended if I used the back space key and would make me start all over. I got quite good at filling it out since I did it five times. But whew, it’s finally complete.

One of the challenges was describing the project in under 1,000 characters including spaces. I squeezed it into a mere 983:

Millions of readers around the world participate in online communities focused on sharing their reading experiences. These communities leave textual traces that suggest what readers get out of reading for pleasure, how their reading experiences benefit from social interactions, how readers form interpretive communities that transcend national boundaries, and how informal critical communities participate in the formation of popular literary tastes. Because these communities attract readers from many countries, they are a rich site for the exploration of similarities and differences in national book cultures. I will study communities formed around the crime fiction genre using mixed methods and will make my findings available as I work in order to explore new models for making humanities scholarship accessible to readers, writers, librarians, and publishers, as well as to scholars interested in genre fiction, fan culture, social reading practices, and popular literacy.

In case you take a nerdy interest in this sort of thing, here’s the selective bibliography that was part of the application – there’s quite a lot of intriguing stuff coming out on the subject of social reading experiences these days. I had to keep it short, but there’s plenty more in a Zotero folder.

  • Bérubé, Michael, Hester Blum, Christopher Castiglia, and Julia Spicher Kasdorf. “Community Reading and Social Imagination.” PMLA 125.2 (March 2010): 418–425.
  • Elsayed, Amany M. “Arab Online Book Clubs: A Survey.” IFLA Journal 36.3 (October 2010): 235–250.
  • Fuller, Danielle, and DeNel Rehberg Sedo. Reading Beyond the Book: The Social Practices of Contemporary Literary Culture, 2013.
  • Griswold, Wendy, Elizabeth Lenaghan, and Michelle Naffziger. “Readers as Audiences.” In Handbook of Media Audiences. Oxford: Wiley, 2011, 17–40.
  • Gruzd, Anatoliy, and DeNel Rehberg Sedo. “#1b1t: Investigating Reading Practices at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century.” Mémoires Du Livre 3.2 (2012).
  • Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2006.
  • Lang, Anouk, ed. From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century, 2012.
  • Long, Elizabeth. Book Clubs: Women and the Uses of Reading in Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
  • Nakamura, Lisa. “‘Words With Friends’: Socially Networked Reading on Goodreads.” Preprint of an article forthcoming in PMLA, 2013.
  • Peplow, D. “‘Oh, I’ve Known a Lot of Irish People’: Reading Groups and the Negotiation of Literary Interpretation.” Language and Literature 20.4 (December 9, 2011): 295–315.
  • Rehberg Sedo, DeNel. “Readers in Reading Groups: An Online Survey of Face-to-Face and Virtual Book Clubs.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 9.1 (March 2003): 66–90.
  • Rehberg Sedo, DeNel, ed. Reading Communities from Salons to Cyberspace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
  • Steiner, Ann. “Personal Readings and Public Texts: Book Blogs and Online Writing about Literature,” Culture Unbound 2 (2010): 471–494.
  • Striphas, Ted. The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control. New York: Columbia UP, 2011
  • Swann, J., and D. Allington. “Reading Groups and the Language of Literary Texts: a Case Study in Social Reading.” Language and Literature 18.3 (August 18, 2009): 247–264.

Stupid Computer!!!

photo that expresses my frustration with forms courtesy of f1uffster


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