Thursday, 14 July 2011

Reading Room at the British Museum

Reading Room 
Description at the British Museum website
The Reading Room stands at the heart of the Museum, in the centre of the Great Court. Completed in 1857, it was hailed as one of the great sights of London and became a world famous centre of learning. It was restored in 2000 and ... (more)


The 100 greatest non-fiction books
The Guardian have come up with this list of the best ever factual writing.
(Found via i love english literature)




British Museum's Reading Room
from Vladjesul on Flickr
Jumping off point for the first few threads of what follows was an enotes entry on the British Museum Reading Room.

20 of the World's Most Beautiful Libraries
bizarrely part of: China Political & Defence Forum - Global Times Forum - Discuss China, Discuss the world > ≡ World Affairs & Defence ≡ > World Affairs, and also on


This image also features in bourgeoissurrender's post on Louis MacNeice, who wrote a poem entitled 'The British Museum Reading Room' in 1939.

Arlindo Correia has a page on Louis MacNeice, and don't miss out on material he's collated about other writers.


Opening scene Possession by A.S. Byatt is set in the Reading Room of the Bristish Museum.
Possession by A.S. Byatt on Amazon


Guardian book club: writing Victorian verse
Week three: AS Byatt on knitting Possession into a satisfying whole
Four part series featuring AS Byatt and Possession


Official trailer for Neil LaBute's Possession on YouTube


The British Museum Is Falling Down (King Penguin)
von David Lodge

Guardian podcast interview with AS Byatt re Posession


The British Museum Reading Room features in Hitchcock's Blackmail:
Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) - The British Museum pursuit scene on YouTube


AS Byatt interviewed by Michael Silverblatt for Bookworm on KCRW

With his novel New Grub Street, George Gissing is recognized as the first to use the Reading Room in a work of fiction. Use Amazon's 'Surprise me' search function to find all the passages that refer to the Reading Room in this work about an aspiring author.

Ed Reardon's Week, a sitcom on Radio 4, links to Gissing's novel. The most recent programmes are on the BBC site, couldn't find anything in the BBC archives for older ones though.

And so to Virginia Woolf, and her description in A Room of One's Own (1929) of entering the British Museum Reading Room:
The swing doors swung open, and there one stood under the vast dome, as if one were a thought in the huge bald forehead which is so splendidly encircled by a band of famous names.
As Ruth Hoberman foregrounds in her Women in the British Museum Reading Room during the Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieh Centuries: From Quasi- to Counterpublic, the bald forehead and absence of female famous names suggest that
... as a woman she exists only as perceived by the male mind and that the very shape of the room itself, as well as the books it contains, conflats knowledge with masculinity.
 The reading room serves Woolf as a conveniently vivd representation of women's exclusion from the public sphere.
 Hoberman continues with Habermas' on the term 'public sphere'.

Siân Cleaver's summary on Bookdrum highlights Woolf's view that being gender aware presents difficulties to writers of either sex, with the aim being to be able to truly write as onself, to be 'incandescent'.

Bookdrum in itself looks very interesting
 Book Drum is the perfect companion to the books we love, bringing them to life with immersive pictures, videos, maps and music.

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