Does anybody even read anymore?

Megan Keane, Columnist

This past Tuesday was not only my 22nd birthday; it was the English Studies Conference on the third floor of Coleman Hall. It showcases the hard work the students, faculty and alumni are doing in the English department. Sounds pretty nerdy, but it was actually awesome—especially because I got to participate and present research with a panel of students from my Transatlantic Literature II class.

We had such an insightful and interesting conversation amongst the audience and ourselves about whether or not our generation—and the generations after us—read as much as the older ones did/do. Our discussion didn’t come to any conclusions, by any means, but we all posed some interesting questions that I need answered, one of which being, “Do we even read anymore?”

The simple answer to this question is, “Yes. Duh.” We read all the time! We read Facebook posts, tweets, in-game dialogue, subtitles, fanfiction, etc. So, something I want to explore first: The world no longer just has printed text to read anymore. One interesting perspective that was brought up was that paintings, movies, TV shows, anything that can be interpreted, decoded, analyzed.

Think about it: there are millions upon millions of interpretations and analyses of film, artwork, conversations. We read into things. Everybody reads, decodes symbols to establish meanings, uses inference and deduction, is affected by our previous personal experience that hinder/cause our responses.

But do we read text, anymore? Like, literature. “Old stuff” from the literary canon. Not really, right? Maybe we read the Sparknotes of the literary canon, but most people fake it until they’re no longer expected to work with those texts. How often do we analyze, deconstruct and work with literary allusions to make a work larger? How often do we work when we read text?

In my humble opinion, I don’t know. It’s inconclusive. People can say they do all of those things when they read, and those same people have probably faked their way to an A on an analysis essay, y’know?  If audiobooks stimulate your brain the way a book does, listening to  music definitely counts as reading, right?

I think we’ve come to the point in society where we either need to redefine reading, or we need a new word for what we all do. Like I said, we “read” all the time, everyday, from tweets to body language. But do we read Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, etc.? Are those outdated? I don’t think so, but some do. Is reading printed texts almost out of fashion? Have we advanced past that as a society? I’m stumped.

Megan Keane is an English and psychology major and can be reached at [email protected].