Dr Eben Muse
Reader in Bookselling / Director of Teaching and Learning
“A bookstore is one of the few places where all the cantankerous, conflicting, alluring voices of the world co-exist in peace and order and the avid reader is as free as a person can possibly be, because she is free to choose among them.” Jane Smiley’s oft-quoted description of the multitude of voices in a bookstore, and the freedom that complexity creates, echoes Doreen Massey’s description of “the chance of space”, a location where unexpected intersections, of people, ideas and cultures can create the opportunity for new connections and for action that is not restricted by pre-existing structures. This bookstore space can outwit the curator, the corporate chain, the academic and the bookseller, creating unexpected opportunities for action and change. As such, the bookstore as a meaningful location has historically been a meeting place for debate, planning and for action.
My research, The Space of Bookselling, examines physical bookstores and their digital counterparts as meaningful locations, a term John Agnew (Place and Politics, 1987) as “locale, location and, sense of place”. As a meaningful location, the bookstore, physical or digital, is a space created in a specific setting within a geographical and social context that has its own meaningful identity. The location and locale create a space that gathers elements and creates the potential for events. Osborne, in The Rise of the Modernist Bookshop, identified them as counter-spaces: “spaces that hijack dominant spaces and repurpose them to leisure or liberating ones”, spaces that “question or change the nature of that dominant space.” The Space of Bookselling looks at the evolution of these meaningful locations through interviews with booksellers in the UK and USA, corpus analysis of social and broadcast media text, and critical review of the representations of bookstores in film and literature, and historical studies of the inter-dependency between bookstore and community. The work has been presented at international conferences in the UK and United States, including SHARP, By the Book, and The Future Space of Bookselling. The Fantasy of the Bookstore (2022) explores these themes through a study of the bookstore novel.
I am interested in supervising postgraduate researchers in any aspect of the book trade, especially indie bookselling & publishing, artisanal publishing, book culture, or bookselling as a function of community.