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Live Event: The Social Life of Books: A History of Reading Together at Home

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 3:52pm in

Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. If we were able to step inside the parlours and drawing rooms of the eighteenth century we’d find homes busy with home-made culture - book groups and tea table parties; amateur dramatics; groups of women reading and weeping their way through popular sentimental fiction; children stumbling through poems before their maiden aunts, and men at punch parties singing songs about dogs. We used to read aloud, and we used to do it together, at home. This event, presented by Professor Abigail Williams, gives us a glimpse of that older world of domestic culture and performance, with some thoughts on its revival in the current climate. In a short 'masterclass' with Giles Lewin, Abby will also give some tips on what eighteenth-century reading aloud might have looked and sounded like.

Abigail Williams is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature at St Peter's College, University of Oxford. Her monograph on reading aloud, The Social Life of Books was published by Yale in 2017. She is currently working on a book on the history of misreading.

Giles Lewin is a performer and composer, primarily a violinist, specialising in medieval music and the traditional music of Europe and the Middle East.He has written and performed music for theatre and radio, and played on many film and television scores. He is a founder member of the folk band Bellowhead, and the early music groups The Dufay Collective, Alva, and The Carnival Band.

Sunday, 13 September 2020 - 9:33am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/09/2020 - 9:33am in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 6 September 2020 - 5:44pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/09/2020 - 5:44pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Philosophy Department As ‘Houses Of Healing,’ Not ‘Houses Of Production’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 12:48am in

In ‘Two Pedagogies for Happiness: Healing Goals and Healing Methods in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas and the Śrī Bhāsyạ of Rāmānuja,’¹ Martin Ganeri (citing Paul Griffiths) writes:

[T]he root metaphor for scholastic intellectual practice is that of reading. The scholastic is one who is dominated by the text he studies, transformed by the text, and the scholastic institution is best described as a ‘house of reading.’ In contrast…the root metaphor for contemporary academia is that of writing. The contemporary academic is concerned with the production of texts, with getting things out in print, with being cited and getting academic credit for  his or her compositions. The university becomes a ‘house of production’ rather than a house of reading.²

….The scholastic approach challenges us to retrieve the idea of philosophy as transformative and pedagogical reading and to retrieve the idea of philosophical institutions as houses of this reading, so that they can also be houses of healing,houses for happiness.

The idea of philosophical institutions–like academic departments–being ‘houses of healing, houses for happiness’ is entrancing. As is the suggestion above by Ganeri of ‘retriev[ing] the idea of philosophy as transformative and pedagogical reading.’ I note this with some poignancy; when initially I began my graduate studies in philosophy I had hoped for philosophy to be ‘healing’ and ‘transformative’ and indeed, therapeutic. But I was, all too soon, consumed by the idea of academic philosophy being the business of writing and the prolific ‘production of texts.’ Indeed, the most common complaint from academic philosophers–a curious one, you’ll agree–is that they never have time to read anything, because they are too busy writing. Most academic philosophers will proudly claim they have no time to read fiction; if you are spotted reading something not directly academic, it is not unusual to be asked, “What are you reading that for” i.e., Which text being generated by you requires that ‘unconventional’ text as raw material? (I was once asked this because I was carrying around a copy of C.P Snow‘s ‘Two Cultures.’) 

Many are the academics who would like to slow down and ‘just read for a bit’; read all those ‘classic’ and ‘great’ authors and texts they refer to, chase down those footnotes to those beguiling sources that promise further exploration of a tantalizing corner of inquiry. But no one has the time–they need to write, to publish. They don’t have time to read your work in progress, which is why I always thank, profusely, those who do make time to perform this noble task, and they do not have time to read outside of their narrow field of specialization. And they most certainly do not have the time or institutional and disciplinary incentives to think about pursuing philosophy as a transformative and therapeutic process. All of which is, in a crucial sense, a betrayal of the promise of philosophy, its notion of unbridled inquiry, its potential to aid in self-understanding-and-construction.      


  1. In ‘Philosophy as Therapiea’ – Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement #66
  2. Paul Griffiths, ‘Scholasticism: The Possible Recovery of an Intellectual Practice,’ in Scholasticism: Cross-cultural and
    Comparative Perspectives, pp. 201-235.

Sunday, 30 August 2020 - 2:21pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 30/08/2020 - 2:21pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading these comics:

Sunday, 23 August 2020 - 5:36pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 5:36pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 16 August 2020 - 5:17pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 16/08/2020 - 5:17pm in

This fortnight, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 26 July 2020 - 4:07pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 26/07/2020 - 4:07pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 12 July 2020 - 4:23pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 4:23pm in

This week fortnight, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 5 July 2020 - 4:24pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 05/07/2020 - 4:24pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading: