CFP: [General] The Richard and Judy Book Club Reader, 31/07/08, essays

full name / name of organization: 
Jenni Ramone
contact email:

Call for Papers

The Richard and Judy Book Club Reader
Edited collection of essays

How are reading habits and preferences formed? Do we read what we
discover in education, or read what is recommended to us? Or do we build
on random encounters with authors and texts? Increasingly, book clubs and
their recommendations, like Richard & Judy’s teatime TV reading
selections, advise the general public not only about what to read, but
also, that they should be reading something in the first place. In
response to this, almost every text recommended by the Richard & Judy
Book Club becomes a bestseller. But what impact does this have on reading
in general, on textual production, and on the way that we categorise and
analyse literature? And what textual properties are required in order for
a text to be admitted to the Richard & Judy Book Club list, if there are
any common characteristics at all?

Essays of 6-9000 words will address one of the following three
categories, and might respond to some of the suggested questions in each
category below, though these approaches are intended to offer suggested
lines of enquiry, and are not an exhaustive list.

Section 1: Reading with the Richard & Judy Book Club

This section will explore the very recent change in attitude towards
reading in the UK, which has seen it develop into a popular rather than a
niche pastime. The Richard & Judy Book Club is part of this, and now
determines bestseller lists, whether the book club produced the upsurge
in reading or was formed in response to it.

Contributions to this section might consider the following questions:
• Why has reading very recently become a popular pastime?
• What role has the Richard & Judy Book Club played in the recent
upsurge in reading?
• What has been the effect of this phenomenon on society, on other
types of literature, and on other forms of popular culture?
• What is the function of the Book Club in the context of Literary
• Is there a relationship between the Book Club and other public
manifestations of literature, such as creative writing leisure classes,
poetry readings, and storytelling workshops?

Section 2: Promotion and the Richard & Judy Book Club

Essays in this section will examine the categorisation and
contextualisation of texts chosen by The Richard and Judy Book Club in
terms of how the books are promoted and sold to the public.

Contributions to this section might consider the following questions:
• Has the marketing of certain types of literature changed in
response to The Richard and Judy Book Club, and to the explosion of
reading groups more generally?
• What function is performed by categorising texts
as ‘highbrow’, ‘middlebrow’ and ‘popular’? Does the Richard and Judy Book
Club include texts which might traditionally belong to each of these
• Has the form and function of the text itself changed in response
to its new readership, to include Book Club-friendly material (points for
discussion, author interviews, historical or cultural information to
contextualise) as part of the text?
• Is ‘popular’ literature crossing boundaries and becoming a
legitimate body of work for academic study, with texts which might be
considered ‘popular’ finding their way on to undergraduate reading lists?
If so, is this in response to the Book Club phenomenon?
• Does the Book Club permit other literary forms, like poetry,
plays, and short stories, or has the rise of the Book Club contributed to
the continued marginalisation of these forms in contemporary writing?

Section 3: The texts of the Richard & Judy Book Club

This section interrogates the specific texts included in the Richard and
Judy Book Club lists. The essays might take a single book to explore, or
consider several from the Richard and Judy Book Club lists; they might
also explore the role of TV and film adaptations.

Contributions to this section might consider the following questions:
• What do texts have to do, or not do, in order to become popular?
• Do these books have common ways of dealing with a limited number
of themes, or are they diverse?
• Can they be divided into the exotic and the domestic?
• What is the relationship between these texts and other literary
texts, or indeed, other art and popular cultural forms?
• What cultural referents or literary antecedents have to be there
or have to be absent? Do significant numbers of texts included on the
lists revise canonical literature from the past?
• Do they engage with, or revise major iconic cultural symbols?
• What types of norms or judgements are apparent in the texts?

Please send short CVs and 500-word abstracts indicating the category that
your essay addresses by July 31st 2008, to both:
Helen Cousins
Jenni Ramone

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