Listening to the Readers of Canada Reads


"Listening to the Readers of 'Canada Reads'" examines the reading practices promoted on-air by the CBC radio One series "Canada Reads,” those adopted by readers participating through book group discussions and on-line bulletin boards, and those of academic commentators (in print, online, in/outside the classroom). Redefining "response"€ as "use," this essay attempts to steer a course between the hermeneutic and affective definitions of reading favoured by reader-response theorists (e.g. Murray; Price). I argue that, on-air, "Canada Reads"€ frequently favours interpretive practices shaped by canonical aesthetics and formalist hermeneutics. However, off-air readers exhibit both resistance to and conformity with the on-air reading practices, while negotiating with the codes of various media. Further, between the first and fourth series of "Canada Reads"€ (2002-2005), there was a gradual shift on-air towards the vernacular reading practices and social dynamics common in many face-to-face book groups. If popular reading cultures and media formats are re-shaping the use of Canadian literature, literary scholars should be taking those cultural formations seriously. Therefore, this essay highlights some of the lessons to be learned from listening to non-professional readers engaging with the "game"€ of "Canada Reads"€ as a means of contributing towards a "re-thinking"€ of Canadian literary studies and its possible futures.

This article “Listening to the Readers of Canada Reads” originally appeared in Canada Reads. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 193 (Summer 2007): 11-34.

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