On reading

Reading is a dynamic activity. Through reading, a writer’s work is animated, mobilised, made alive. Against the standard descriptions of reading as immersion or absorption, the Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds project instead considers reading as involved, engaged, and active. What is it that calls to us in a book and what draws us in? How do we identify ourselves through how we read? And how is that books stick in our memory across our lives?

We are interested in exploring these ideas of active reading and identification in relation to Black and Asian British literature especially. This is because we believe this writing is central to our understanding of ourselves as both British and global readers. The dual focus helps us to think about the importance of imaginative writing in general, and this writing in particular, in shaping our sense of the world. How might reading allow us to locate ourselves in the world, and to navigate our relationships with others?

The pages in this section expand on some of the ways into these questions about how and why we read literature, and what happens to us when we do.

Approaches to reading

How much of your experience reading a book is shaped by the words on the page or by what surrounds these words? Find out more about different approaches to thinking about reading.

Reading and reception

What happens in our minds when we read? Is our imagination stimulated by the separate words on the page, or by the flow of those words, or both? See how different thinkers explain the processes of reading, reception and cognition.

Reading and identification

Identifying with literature

How do we engage with literature about contexts that are familiar or different from our own? Explore how reading can help us to think differently about ourselves, others and the world.

Performance and reading

How does the performance of a work of literature affect our experience of it? Read more about these questions and watch two poets perform their work.