| Faculty of Philosophy, Research

New publication on reading in the Anthropocene

Reading is much more than just a leisure activity. Reading means interpreting texts and interpreting the world as well as changing this world - this is how the volume "Diffractive Reading", now edited by Professor Kai Merten, works it out for the current age of the Anthropocene.

'Diffractive reading' refers to a method of interpretation and analysis that takes this fact into account. In this context, not only books, films and other media are 'read', but also Lake Baikal or the human genome. Diffractive Reading is equally applicable to cultural and natural scientific phenomena and theorises how reading can change the world, for the good or the problematic: Reading enables us to reflect on and critique human agency in society, culture and extra-human nature. However, 'reading' the human genome automatically also means being able to modify it and thus massively influence nature.

In addition to a theoretical foundation of diffractive reading, the volume includes a whole series of applications of the method to novels (such as those by J. R. R. Tolkien or Siri Hustvedt), to films, the music of U2 or the user portal Stack Overflow. Other contributions, which focus on the diffractive reading of nature, subject this human influence to critical scrutiny and at the same time offer examples of a more careful reading of the human body and the environment.

The volume combines humanities and natural science interests and methods in an intensive way and is at the same time an important literary contribution to the Anthropocene as a phenomenon and object of discussion. It emerged from workshops and an international call for articles by the Erfurt Network on New Materialism (ENNM), which is headed by Kai Merten, Professor of Modern English Literature at the University of Erfurt. The book is published by Rowman & Littlefield, a London-based publishing house relevant to current academic discussions. Overall, the volume places Erfurt literary studies in a global discussion context that is strongly perceived internationally.

Cover Merten Diffractive Reading

Kai Merten
Diffractive Reading New Materialism, Theory, Critique
(series: New Critical Humanities)
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Rowman & Littlefield International
ISBN (print): 978-1-78661-396-7
ISBN (e-book): 978-1-78661-397-4
352 pages
$ 125 (print)
$ 45.00 (e-book)