Reading in conflict: an interdisciplinary seminar

The Open University, Milton Keynes
Christodoulou Meeting Room 01
24th June 2013

The commonplace understanding of reading as an essentially private activity is challenged not only by the very vocal kinds of reading carried out in classrooms, literary festivals, or reading groups (book clubs) but also by the important role it has played in social and political conflict.

This interdisciplinary seminar will bring researchers together to explore the question of how reading is implicated in diverse forms of conflict, including class conflict, military conflict, and conflict over political questions such as race and immigration. Presentations of cutting edge research on reading from the 19th century to the present day will be followed by group discussion of current knowledge and future directions for research and publication.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Attendance is free but places are limited.

Please email Alex Laffer ( to book a place.


10.00 Tea / coffee

10.15 Welcome and introductions

10.30 ‘Reading in the 19th century prison’

Rosalind Crone, History, The Open University

11.00 ‘Reading in a conflict zone: E. W. Hornung, the YMCA, and the reading soldier in the First World War’

Edmund King, English, The Open University

11.30 ‘ “Fighting for the right reading”: the struggle for Karl Marx’s Capital

Catherine Feely, History, University of Sheffield

12.00 Lunch

13.00 ‘Not reading in conflict: the status of The Satanic Verses during the Satanic Verses controversy’

Daniel Allington, Language and Communication, The Open University

13.30 ‘Horror, heroism, and “the humble Tommy”: reader responses to Great War autobiographies in the 21st century’

Vincent Trott, History, The Open University

14.00 ‘Conflicted positioning: how reading groups discuss a fictional asylum seeker’

Alex Laffer, Language and Communication, The Open University

14.30 Tea / coffee

14.45 Group discussion

16.00 Close

This event is made possible by funding from the Open University Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET).