17 Group Wed the 2nd of November


The next Meeting of the 17 Group will be held on Wednesday the 2nd of November in unit 6 at 20 Drury St West End at 7pm on the rather unusual topic:

“Why are there histories of reading? Some thoughts and reports”.

The speaker will be Professor Pat Buckridge.

Here is Pat’s summary of the themes of his talk:

For most of us, reading is as natural and necessary as breathing, and who needs a history of breathing? Reading, however – unlike breathing or speaking – is neither natural, necessary nor universal. Many human communities have flourished in which no-one could read a word, and many more in which only scribal elites could read. Only in the last 150 years or so has it come to be assumed that even basic literacy, let alone more sophisticated reading abilities, could or should be available to everyone ( even now, of course, it isn’t); and the progress towards universal literacy has at times been met with suspicion and resistance.

Reading is a complex cognitive activity and a variable cultural practice: its nature, purposes and perceived value have all varied considerably across times and places; so has its social distribution across classes and genders; so has its relationship to major institutions such as the legal, political, and education systems, and the church. In all those contexts it has been affected by – though not inseparable from – changing technologies of inscription and forms of writing.

This talk will explore the history of reading in three main sections:

· 1. A quick and selective skim across the millennia, noting some of the more important, interesting, paradoxical and bizarre moments in the history of reading since ca.2000BC.

Re 2. Reports on two current research projects: a case-study of Australia’s ‘reading culture’ during the interwar period (1920-1940), and the construction of a digital database of Australian reading experiences (AusRED), 1788-2000.

· 3. Some thoughts on the place of reading in contemporary Australian society, and the potential use of resources like the AusRED in changing some perceptions and practices, especially in the education system.

(Pat Buckridge is a Professor of Literary Studies in the School of Humanities, Griffith University.)

A few informal shots of Leon:

1) reading silently,

2) about to read when we leave, and, if you follow the url,

3) reading aloud to others.

Obviously the sort of chap a meeting like this could interest. You’re probably a bit like him yourself. Come along.



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