Books as Elements of Pleasure: Establishing a University-Wide Reading Program in an Oral Society in the Middle East

By Robin L. Fetherston.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The practice of requiring or inviting freshmen to read the same book upon matriculation is becoming widespread among universities in the United States. This reading experience is meant to begin the formation of social and intellectual bonds among new students from diverse backgrounds. However, since the mission of many universities is to produce citizens who share a habit of learning throughout life, and since reading can be significant in the process of learning, it seems more appropriate to engage all undergraduates in a common reading experience each semester. This paper presents as a case study the establishment at an American satellite campus in Doha, Qatar, of a university-wide reading program inspired by the One Book, One City campaigns operating throughout the U.S. This reading program developed despite formidable obstacles: Doha, home to a primarily oral society, possesses only one substantial public library that was closed at the time, and for the city’s inhabitants, the word “bookshop” signifies a place that sells knick-knacks, stationery, and pens. In addition, all students on the university campus are artists and designers and thus typically tactile and visual learners rather than language-oriented. The success of this reading program in the face of these hindrances represents the possibility of developing a book and intellectual culture among the entire student body at larger universities in the U.S., where reading is already valued.

Keywords: School-Wide Reading Program, University Reading Programs, Pleasure Reading, Book Culture, Book Club, Oral Society, Qatar, Middle East

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.177-184. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 818.702KB).

Robin L. Fetherston

Assistant Professor, Department of English/School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Doha, Qatar

For Robin Fetherston, becoming a teacher of writing and literature was the result of an evolutionary process beginning with an undergraduate degree in learning disabilities with an emphasis on behavioral science. After nearly twenty years as an educator during which she worked with every age group from preschool through adulthood, she took a position at Virginia Commonwealth University’s satellite arts and design school in the Arabian Gulf. Since she arrived four years ago, she has taught research, writing, and literature to Arabic-speaking students at this women’s university. Her writing has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and business publications in the United States as well as in both English-speaking and Arabic-speaking local and regional newspapers in the Gulf. Photographic works of hers have accompanied some of her published articles and have been exhibited in the VCUQ Gallery. Her areas of current research are in Victorian studies, film, the teaching of writing, and culture. She also is interested in the development of women leaders, particularly in the Middle East.


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