Books in Public: Recognition of Evaluative Discourses in Popular Reading

Erin Aust

Advisor: Denise Albanese, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Eric Eisner, Rachel Lewis

Horizon Hall, #3223
May 03, 2023, 12:00 PM to 02:00 PM


Independent bookstores and online spaces like have been celebrated as spaces that enable readers to form a community to evaluate books and discuss emotional impacts of reading, allowing space to bring embodied experiences to bear on reading and potentially open new avenues of discourse. Yet, at the same time, these spaces are marked by a reluctance to engage publicly as well as a continued deference to or centering of a perceived literary elite. This dissertation first argues that creating a space for readers to comfortably work toward speaking publicly requires addressing the accumulation of habits and attitudes that discourage readers from breaking from received wisdom. While these spaces seem like a way to evade dealing with these issues, the context of consumer capitalism in which these spaces inevitably must exist ensures that utterances of intimacy and embodiment, utterances that look challenging to the rational-critical discourse of literary aesthetics, still reproduce self-alienation.