Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Reading Groups

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Reading Groups

Article excerpt

LITERARY STUDIES

Reading Groups, by jenny Hartley in association with Sarah Turvey.

With 50,000 Brits and ten times that many Americans involved in reading groups, it's time to describe what they are, who belongs to them, how they choose titles, how they talk, and what the implications of their projects might be. Based on survey research, this volume offers a wide diversity of answers, but falls far short of full-or fully reassuring-coverage. Long-term associations of readers, Hartley and Turvey found, cut across social classes, generations, educational levels, and media; taste runs from the classics to best sellers, chosen by one or more members and discussed from any of several perspectives: personal reaction, external fact-finding, or interpretation, usually free and easy. Undeniably valuable, reading groups foster active engagement with books by assuring that no one need confront them unsupported-or, for that matter, unchallenged by divergent opinions. That said, the gains of Hartley's and Turvey's sample may not be as great as they would suggest, for activity, encouragement, and debate are not synonymous with well prepared, sound, or productive dialogue. …

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