Université de Strasbourg

Public lecture - Lost in a book – on the nature and value of immersive reading

June 15, 2022
From 09:30 until 10:45
Salle de Table Ronde, MISHA, Strasbourg (FR)

Image - StockSnap - Pixabay

By Diana Holmes
Professor of French
University of Leeds (United Kingdom)

The lecture will be given in English. It is part of the study day "French Cultural Studies ?", everyone is welcome, but registration is required. See the full programme for the day and registration link here.

In her book Middlebrow Matters (2018), Professor Holmes argued for the salutary power of immersive reading, that experience of being transported into an imaginary world that narrative fiction can (magically) produce out of a series of letters on a printed page. The qualities of deft plotting, empathetic characterisation and skilful make-believe have been little valued in the past century, dominated by a more formalist aesthetic, but they have remained central to the reasons why most ‘ordinary’ readers choose to read novels. In this talk Diana Holmes will examine further what immersive reading actually involves, by exploring scientific accounts of the brain’s activity during fictional reading, and some psychological and literary theories of the value of a type of reading often dismissed as merely ‘escapist’. What actually happens in our brains and bodies when we read fiction immersively? and why does it matter?

Examples will be drawn from French novels that attract a wide and enthusiastic readership - albeit in some cases straddling the frontier between popular and critical acclaim. They will include Colette’s fiction, and the interesting case of the return of the family saga in recent bestsellers by (among others) Leila Slimani and Alice Zeniter.

France 2030