Reading, Engagement and Higher Education

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the close association between higher education and reading. I draw on the resources of literary studies to illuminate the phenomenon of educational ‘engagement’. I explore the accounts of reading offered in the phenomenological literary theory of Rita Felski and Marielle Macé and extend their ‘stylistics of existence’ into higher education to elaborate engagement’s ‘eventful’ character: it is not in the power of teacher or student to ‘bring about’ engagement. In place of pedagogical ‘method’, I demonstrate how Padraig Hogan’s treatment of education as the ‘courtship of sensibility’ is consistent with this phenomenological treatment of engagement. I am thus able to illustrate how engagement is in tension with instrumental approaches to teaching and learning. I conclude by offering an ethical relation of mutual belonging to subject matter as a corrective to the centrality of ‘knowledge’ in recent attempts to unify the different degrees and objects of engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-50
Number of pages13
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2018


  • engagement
  • higher education
  • reading
  • phenomenology
  • belonging
  • Knowledge Democracy


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