'Reader, I married him!' I: Investigating 19th-century Readers and Reading the 19th Century (Panel)


British / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Ashton Foley (University of Rhode Island)

Anna Brecke (Stonehill College)

As Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre reminds us with her exclamation, “Reader, I married him!,” writers of fiction in the nineteenth century were very aware of their readership with texts. In the increasingly literate century, readers were savvy consumers, rapt fans, and scathing critics. They read penny papers, novels, and genre specific magazines. They read at home, in libraries, and on trains. In breaking the fourth wall to address her “reader,” Bronte evokes the relationship between audience and text that was complicated in the nineteenth century by the publishing industry and new technologies. Contemporary readers of nineteenth century texts also find themselves in a relationship with technology. New digitization projects have made previously inaccessible texts available to wide audiences. Interactive e-texts are changing the meaning of annotation. New textual formats, like social media and e-readers are making it possible to read collaboratively with people all over the world. Like our nineteenth century counterparts, the way we read is changing. This panel invites work examining readers and reading practice in the Victorian era and contemporary readers or readings of Victorian novels.

Topics might include:
- Depictions of reading in nineteenth century texts
- Reading in motion: planes, trains, and automobiles
- The dangers of reading both form and content
- Reading practices of nineteenth century readers
- Practical reading, reading for edification, or reading for pleasure
- Gendered reading, as in Ruskin’s advice from Sesame and Lilies
- How we read nineteenth century novels in twenty-first century contexts
- How we teach students to read nineteenth century texts
- The affect of digitization on reading and reading practice
- Reading in neo-Victorian texts
As Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre reminds us with her exclamation, “Reader, I married him!” writers of fiction in the nineteenth century were very aware of their readership with texts. Like our nineteenth-century counterparts, the way we read is changing. This panel invites work examining readers and reading practice in the Victorian era and contemporary readers or readings of Victorian novels.