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Perceptions of fiction project to launch at Being Human Festival


The research project ‘Novel Perceptions: towards an inclusive canon’, which will look at readers’ opinions about the literary quality of contemporary fiction, is set to launch at the Being Human Festival this month.

The 18-month project by the University of Wolverhampton and the Dutch Huygens Institute, which has received £300,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), launches on November 16 in an online session with author Kit de Waal.

The online session, entitled ‘Kit de Waal: Novels That Shaped My World’, sees the ‘My Name is Leon’ author in conversation with Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam and Being Human Festival curator Professor Sarah Churchwell as they discuss the benefits of a more diverse, inclusive reading ‘diet’.

Kit de Waal was a panel member of the BBC’s ‘The Novels That Shaped Our World’ project, which saw leading writers, curators and critics choose 100 novels that have had an impact on their lives. The English language novels, written over the last 300 years, range from children’s classics to popular page turners.

Professor Karina van Dalen-Oskam introduces the Novel Perceptions project and invites the public to rate the covers of books included on ‘The Novels That Shaped Our World’ list in order to see whether they influence people’s perceptions of literary quality.

In the run up to the event, BBC Arts and the University of Wolverhampton have launched a similar quiz that asks people to judge book covers where the name and title have been taken out. Take the quiz here: 

On why Novel Perceptions is important, Principal Investigator, Professor of English Literature Sebastian Groes, said: “From Black Lives Matter to the #MeToo movement, we are living in a time when many emancipatory movements demand change to the way in which society is run. 

“Novel Perceptions asks us to look critically at the English literature canon. From an early age we are instilled with the idea that we have to read and enjoy highbrow literature.

“Rather than relying on the authority of educational institutions and literary critics, our project listens to many different members of the public to understand which books they think are good.”

For more information about the ‘Kit de Waal: Novels That Shaped My World’ launch event, November 16, 6pm – 7pm, and to book tickets, visit the Being Human Festival webpage.

Project partners of Novel Perceptions are the University of Wolverhampton, the Dutch Huygens Institute, BBC Arts, the British Library, Libraries Connected, Writing West Midlands, the Library and Information Association (CILIP), the University of Exeter’s Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

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