The Experience of Novel Reading During COVID-19 Lockdowns 2020

    Project Details


    During the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists, critics and publishers presented lockdown as the perfect time to read novels. Online reading groups emerged, publishers ran ‘COVID-19’ reading lists, and scholarly groups established close reading activities. Such messages belie a complex picture concerning time and novel reading. We do not know if people read more novels during lockdown, how they read or when, or how their novel reading affected their temporal experience of lockdown. We do know that perception of having or lacking time impacts engagement with novels. This project investigates this wider claim via a comparative case study of novel reading during lockdowns in the UK and Denmark. The project analyses the types of novels people read, how they read them, and what reading during lockdown was like. The project will provide initial findings for a broader analysis of novel reading and its relationship to the perception of time across present-day Europe.

    The project has received research funding from the Carlsberg Foundation in Denmark. Two British Academy funding applications have also been submitted to support this project.

    Key findings

    1. Davies and Lupton will co-edit a special issue of Textual Practice on the phenomenology of reading novels in the twenty-first century.

    2. Davies and Lupton will publish a co-authored article on the phenomenology of reading novels under lockdown. The article will feature as part of their special issue of Textual Practice devoted to the phenomenology of reading.

    3. Davies and Lupton will share the data collected during the project on a website that showcases short, filmed interviews with readers, as well as their written descriptions of reading in spring 2020.

    4. The project will include two events, a workshop and a conference. The workshop will take place in at the University of Portsmouth. The conference, funded by the the Carlsberg Foundation, will take place in early summer 2021 at Copenhagen Royal Library. The Portsmouth workshop will be used to discuss the project’s remit, initial findings and future direction and collaboration opportunities, and to collect further interview material. The Copenhagen conference will be used to disseminate the project’s findings, showcase the visual and written reader interviews, collect further such material and to pursue future collaboration opportunities with participants.

    5. Davies and Lupton will work on a large ERC project application on reading and time, which will involve multiple European partners.
    Short titleCOVID-19 Reading
    Effective start/end date1/08/2030/11/21

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


    • COVID-19
    • Lockdown
    • Reading
    • Literature


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