The ability of books to mentally transport their readers away from the problems and challenges of everyday life is well established. And yet, reading for escape (rather than self-improvement) has often attracted moral censure for being self-indulgent and wasteful.
Despite the plethora of influencers on social media with their lists of ’10 escapist books to take your mind off the madness’, in academia, reading for escape (and escapist fiction) has often been derided for being beneath serious intellectual enquiry: the main questions around how, why, where, and when people read for escape and to escape remain critically underexamined.
Does reading for escape allow for temporary mental respite and therefore offer a safety valve, a way or normalising profoundly abnormal or traumatic circumstances? Or is reading for escape actually a way of re-engaging with the world around us?
This conference will encourage participants to interrogate both reading for escape as an instrumental practice, as well as reading and escape as a series of cultural or personal associations.
This is a free event organised by The History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) Research Collaboration, English & Creative Writing, The Open University and supported by SHARP (The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing).