Matthew Rubery, "Reader's Block: A History of Reading Differences" (Stanford UP, 2022)


Matthew Rubery's book Reader’s Block: A History of Reading Differences (Stanford UP, 2022) explores the influence neurodivergence has on the ways individuals read. This alternative history of reading is one of the few books which tells the stories of "atypical" readers and the impact had on their lives by neurological conditions affecting their ability to make sense of the printed word: from dyslexia, hyperlexia, and alexia to synesthesia, hallucinations, and dementia. Rubery's focus on neurodiversity aims to transform our understanding of the very concept of reading. Drawing on personal testimonies gathered from literature, film, life writing, social media, medical case studies, and other sources to express how cognitive differences have shaped people's experiences both on and off the page, Rubery contends that there is no single activity known as reading. Instead, there are multiple ways of reading (and, for that matter, not reading) despite the ease with which we use the term. Pushing us to rethink what it means to read; Reader's Block moves toward an understanding of reading as a spectrum that is capacious enough to accommodate the full range of activities documented in this fascinating and highly original book.

Matthew Rubery is Professor of Modern Literature at Queen Mary University of London. His earlier books include The Novelty of Newspapers: Victorian Fiction after the Invention of the News (Oxford, 2009) and The Untold Story of the Talking Book (Harvard University Press, 2016). He has also edited or co-edited Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies (Routledge, 2011), Secret Commissions: An Anthology of Victorian Investigative Journalism (Broadview, 2012), and Further Reading (Oxford, 2020). Currently, he is working on a history of “projected reading”, a form of assisted reading that involves projecting books on ceilings which a patient can read while lying in bed. This was first used to help World War 2 soldiers injured on duty who could not read conventionally. Matthew also likes to collaborate with charities and other organisations to think about ways of reading more suited to people with disabilities or neurodivergent readers.

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Syed Muhammad Khalid

Syed Muhammad Khalid is a MSc student in Modern South Asian Studies at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar

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