Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories

This project aims to find out how reading shapes our lives. What do we remember about the books we have read – from childhood onwards – and why? Are memories of books and of aspects of books (of a cover, of characters, a phrase, an ending) associated with particular experiences and emotions? How do we make use of fiction in our life stories?

We are creating an oral history archive of interviews with members of reading groups, to explore memories of fiction as described in individual life stories. In doing so, the project is providing a new kind of resource, to enable insights into memories of fiction and life stories.

The project is interested in both individual and collective memories of reading fiction. Reading is often experienced as a private activity, which takes place in silence, on one’s own. Yet reading groups have grown immensely in popularity over the past two decades, bringing reading experiences into the public domain. After working with individual interviewees, the project researchers will work in the reading groups to investigate how we share our memories of reading. In what ways can group talk change how we remember fiction?

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