The forum's question might be interpreted more broadly and evoke a broader set of answers than found in these essays. For example, we might recall that, for many people over much of recorded history, the texts that have been the central objects of reading activities have been scriptural. We might also remember the existence of important efforts to make explicit what is specific to the practices of reading. Recalling the existence of gossip, tales, and oral epics, we should not equate stories or narrative fictions with novels or the reading of novels with the professorially supervised activities of college students. Our quite diverse reasons for reading novels should be recognized as well as the well-documented social and historical effects of literacy, the subject-variable effects of reading, and the fact that the psychological and social effects of reading (novels, among other texts) are not always what scholars of literature would see as desirable.
Barbara Herrnstein Smith; Reading at Large: Reflections on the Forum “What Can Reading Do?”. Novel 1 May 2012; 45 (1): 27–29. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1541333
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