I attended the Harvard English Institute two weeks ago, and intended to blog about it immediately. Better late than never I hope!
The conference draws scholars from all around Boston as well as the U.S. and Canada, and makes me wonder if this is what a more local conference culture is like, rather than geographically spread out conferences North Americans often attend. Of special interest to those of us who work on nineteenth-century literature and culture was a talk Patricia Crain (NYU) gave on “Postures and Places,” which was about children’s practices of reading in the U.S.–or, more literally, what nooks children in read or were depicted as reading in, and what physical postures they took up as they read. Crane concentrated on the child curled up in the window seat (or sitting cross-legged in the window seat as Jane Eyre does); and on what I learned was a new practice of reading in the 1870s, the bed-time story, where a (middle-class) child is read to in bed. This practice seemed so natural from my own middle-class childhood that it was fascinating to learn it had a history, though I suppose I should be used to that sort of revelation by now! Crain’s talk also reminded me of Robyn Warhol’s discussion of the reading postures we take up now and the embodied experience of reading in Having a Good Cry.
Probably either of the postures Crain outlined is preferable to the way that I often read now—hunched up over my computer. I’d be curious as to what postures and places others read in, and how it affects the experience. Does it depend on what genre you’re reading? Does fiction entail a more relaxed posture than criticism?