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Dinner Speech: Dorothee Birke, School of Language & Literature: "The Dangers of Reading"

Wann 10.04.2013
von 18:30 bis 19:00
Wo FRIAS Seminar Room, Albertstr. 19
Kontakttelefon 0761/203-97362
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Do you sometimes feel bad that you don’t take more time to read novels – the great classics by, say, Dostoevsky, Austen, or Flaubert? Then it may make you feel better to know that there were times when reading novels was regarded with as much suspicion as playing computer games is today in some circles – as an activity fostering idleness, if not violent tendencies or sexual misbehaviour.
In my talk I want to introduce some of the prominent worries about the dangers of reading in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In particular, I will show how novels themselves incorporated – and still incorporate – such anxieties. By imagining the impact a work of fiction can have on its reader – such as on Cervantes’ Don Quijote, whose love for medieval romances leads to his proverbial fight against the windmills – novels dramatize the effects of reading. These ostensibly cautionary tales, I will argue, played an important role in the ‘rise’ and continued success of the novel genre, which thus promoted its own cultural significance.
That doesn’t make sense to you? Let’s discuss it in the lounge after the talk!