Reading in the age of the Internet (special issue)

Bibliographic details

Allington, D. and Pihlaja, S. (eds) (2016) ‘Reading in the age of the Internet’. Language and Literature 25 (3): 201-285.


Allington, D. and Pihlaja, S. (2016) ‘Reading in the age of the internet‘. Language and Literature 25 (3): 201-210.

Rowberry, S.P. (2016) ‘Commonplacing the public domain: reading the classics socially on the Kindle’. Language and Literature 25 (3): 211-225.

Pihlaja, S. (2016) ‘ “What about the wolves?”: the use of scripture in YouTube arguments’. Language and Literature 25 (3): 226-238.

Thomas, B. and Round, J. (2016) ‘Moderating readers and reading online’. Language and Literature 25 (3): 239-253.

Allington, D. (2016) ‘ “Power to the reader” or “degradation of literary taste”? Professional critics and Amazon customers as reviewers of The Inheritance of Loss’. Language and Literature 25 (3): 254-278.

Myers, G. (2016) ‘Response to “Reading in the age of the Internet”. Language and Literature 25 (3): 279-285.


The following extract from the editors’ introduction (which also surveys relevant existing scholarship) summarises the content of each of the other articles:

This special issue is motivated by the conviction that diverse methodological approaches can and should be brought together to understand reading and interpretation as they are, as they have been, and as they are becoming, with the partial migration of these and other cultural practices into the (heavily commercialised) digital sphere. The articles brought together here have therefore been chosen not only in order to cover a wide range of online interpretative practices but also in order to showcase methodologies arising from research traditions that have had too little exposure within forms of literary study organised around the enactment, rather than the empirical analysis, of reading and interpretation.

In the first of the empirical articles, Rowberry (2016) takes a quantitative look at the historical practice of ‘commonplacing’ as it has re-emerged through the mediation of the new technology of Kindle e-books, which allow readers to highlight and share particular quotations from texts. Rowberry shows how this re-appropriation of an older literacy practice is used to extract textual fragments that, taken out of context, can serve as expressions of apparently universal wisdom. Next, Pihlaja (2016) looks at the reading of sacred texts online, focusing on how evangelical Christian readers appeal to the authority of God in YouTube videos and comments: it appears that they are able to construct narratives or arguments from elements drawn from across the Bible, treating passages with similar referents or related metaphorical imagery as discursively interchangeable. Thomas and Round (2016) explore the mediation of booktalk in two online reading groups by the institutionally powerful participants known as ‘moderators’. By combining interviews and observations, the authors are able to pick apart the ways in which the moderators view their own role in such forums, suggesting that their interventions are more successful in privileging particular approaches to interpretation when they accord with participants’ expectations. Finally, Allington (2016) studies the reception of Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss (2006) in reviews by professional critics and Amazon customers, finding the latter to exhibit less evidence of close reading and explicit inter- pretation and to employ evaluative criteria more closely aligned with popular fiction, while the former exhibit greater uniformity of response. The special issue ends with Myers’s response to the empirical papers, which reflects both on the continuities and ruptures between the literacy practices of the present and of the past and on the ‘different and perhaps incompatible worlds of reading’ that have been built upon ‘the affordances of each new technology’ (Myers: 2016: 284).

(Allington and Pihlaja 2016, p. 205)


Table of contents at publisher’s website: