A lovely enthusiastic email from another book group asking to join the project has inspired me to start a series of updates on how my research is going. I hope people find this interesting – do post a comment if you do!
I have 8 book groups who are definitely going to read the book and answer my questionnaire, and several more who are considering it or waiting to vote on their choices. This number means I can do a qualitative survey and get some useful results, but is not high enough to do a valid quantitative survey with statistics. But word is spreading so I hope I’ll get more as I go along.
People have been very kind in spreading the word for me. I need it to go out like a chain letter – and so far my friends have emailed it, author Roger Ellory and Strictly Come Dancing dance pro Robin Windsor have kindly posted about it on Facebook, people have shared my post on Facebook and I’ve posted on all the forums I’m on, as well as the Penguin book groups forum. If you want to help me out, please email me to ask for the official text to email out, and send it to everyone you know!
I’ve been working behind the scenes on two aspects:
1. Theoretical underpinnings. Early days on this, but I’m going to concentrate on looking at something called “reception theory”, which basically states that the individual reader or viewer’s response to a text, film, play etc. is key, rather than the critical response. So what real readers think of the book is equally as important as, or more important than, the “official” critical response (I know some lovely researchers through my membership of the Iris Murdoch Society – who were really enthusiastic about my amateur reading of the books – so I’m going for “equally as important as” here!). I have done fairly extensive research on previous research, and there doesn’t seem to be much on readers’ responses to Murdoch, as opposed to critics’ responses.
2. Looking at responses to “The Bell”. I have various reference books on Murdoch from which I’m gathering this information, and quite a few from the library, although most of these have been recalled recently! I’m trying to work out whether I can quote Amazon reviews without Amazon getting cross (of course I will cite the references) and am also looking at Librarything, Good Reads and individual blogs, to get the ‘common reader’ response.
3. Another strand to the research is a case study of the group of people with whom I’ve been reading IM’s novels in chronological order. We’re not quite finished yet, but I’ve started gathering their autobiographies and their initial thoughts at taking on the project.
I’m loving the process and the fact of doing this research, even though I have to fit it in round the day job and Libro work. It was really inspiring to hear the enthusiasm of fellow members of the Iris Murdoch Society when they heard about the novel reading project, and that’s really what spurred me on to turn this into a proper piece of research.