Study day organized by ENSSIB, BPI and the History Committee of the Ministry of Culture and Communication, February 2, 2016 at the Public Information Library (75004)
1.Presentation of the study day
This day of study was a continuation of the seminar "Cultural democratization through contemporary history"which took place over two successive years (2012-2014) at the initiative of the History Committee, in partnership with the Sciences Po History Centre.
Its purpose was to question what the field of books and reading can bring to the light of the history of cultural democratization policies; to confront approaches that are at the crossroads of cultural history (representations, practices, speeches and public debates) and that of cultural policies; to bring together experienced specialists and young researchers.
Problematic context of the study day
With regard to all the activities of production of cultural goods (craft or industrial), markets and specific professional fields that organize them, the place of books and reading is original: the industrial and commercial logic of the distribution of printed matter predates by far the more recent problem of “cultural industries”.
Moreover, a whole section of the cultural history of books and reading has been played out outside public policy. In bulk, for the recent period: Le Club du Livre, France Loisirs, le Livre de poche, le livre et l'édition à la télévision (literary programs but also the presence of books and writers in mainstream programs); multiplication of “popular” literary jury: (Prix du livre Inter, des lectrices de Elle, Goncourt des lycées); «festivisation» and proliferation of book fairs and festivals; return of «reading» in the theatre, on the radio, or through CD-books...
The place of books and reading is also special in the order of public action: it constitutes the basis of literacy policies and the development of schooling and would impose, to deepen the history of school forms and culture. In bulk: respective corpus of primary and secondary, reading aloud and silent, passage from text explicitation to commentary, from dissertation to summary, reading of integral works, study of contemporary works, legitimization by the educational institution of gender previously considered “minors”...
How has the Republican school enterprise extended itself in actions towards wider audiences? (cf. Discourse on Reading and From Popular Libraries to Public Reading and other works in the same vein).
Finally, reading occupies a specific place in the problems of cultural democratization that are particularly noticeable in the recurrent findings on the “decline in reading” of which those objectified by the Pratiques culturelles des français surveys, (decline considered to be much more serious than that of attendance at theatres or concert halls).
Beyond the apocalyptic generalizations (which culminate with the question of illiteracy) it is desirable to analyse more precisely the contrasting reception of the results of these surveys in the public debate, among opinion leaders, in the intellectual world and that of professionals of book and public reading.
The audiovisual capture of this day of study is available by appointment at History committee.