Reader = Inessential Worker: Book History After Lockdown

Date: 7 June 2023
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Leah Price - Distinguished Professor & Director, Rutgers Book Initiative, Rutgers University

How has COVID-19 changed the way Americans read? And has books’ circulation during unequal lockdowns reshaped labor? This lecture will survey a range of data about the effect of lockdowns on who reads, both during 2020 and since. Because those numbers can’t tell us how ideas about reading changed, more discursive sources will be used to explain why white-collar workers in the U.S. came to expand the book’s function during the pandemic. What caused actors ranging from legislators to grocery store managers to set books apart from other commodities? How did societies that distribute risk inversely with literacy redefine books from a vector to a refuge?