'Me mum likes a book, me dad's a newspaper man': Reading, Gender and Domestic Life in '100 Families'

Shelley Trower, Amy Tooth Murphy, Graham Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many of the interviewees for the oral history project ‘100 Families’, carried out in Britain in the 1980s, described reading as part of family life. This archive supports Janice Radway’s findings in Reading the Romance (first published in 1984) that women read for escape and as a form of resistance to domestic roles, but it also shows that such findings may be applied more broadly than romance to other kinds of readers and reading material, from the novel-reading wife and the newspaper-reading father to the Joyce-scholar husband. Whereas Radway approached romance-reading women, this article develops a new kind of methodological approach with its reuse of an oral history archive, incorporating both female and male readers, and their children, spouses, and siblings. The reuse of interviews for different purposes than originally intended can avoid the imposition of disciplinary categories on data from the outset. In this case the ‘100 Families’ sample allows us to step back from any particular literary genre or reader, to draw comparisons between how different family members engage with different kinds of texts. The article questions the dichotomy between women’s and men’s reading activities, considering how the interviews describe the non-fiction reading father/husband as a solitary, absorbed figure, who in carving out time away from domestic life is comparable to the romance reader.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-581
Number of pages28
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Oral History
  • Reuse
  • Reading
  • Gender
  • Family
  • Methodology

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