“Sundry Ulterior Transformations”

The Habit of Reading and Eating
  • Thomas Mc Laughlin


Pierre Bourdieu uses the term habitus to refer to the set of dispositions and assumptions that guide the moment to moment choices and procedures required by a cultural practice. Habitus is a subtle and powerful analytical tool in Bourdieu’s work, allowing him to make sense of the tiniest gestures as manifestations of an entire social formation. But as Katharine Breen has shown in Imagining an English Reading Public, 1150–1400, this ancient term has a rich intellectual history and a variety of usages from referring to the rigorous process of learning Latin grammar and its power to instill a regime of rational morality, to the simple clothing of monastic life and its power to encourage virtue, and to the simple concept of habit, the virtually unconscious, apparently trivial behaviors of daily life and their power to shape personal identity for good or ill. In our ordinary language, we speak of habits as potential problems we must learn to manage or as daily virtues that enhance our physical and spiritual wellbeing. For serious readers the act of reading is a habit, even an addiction. It is practiced repeatedly throughout the activity of everyday life. We carry books or reading devices with us so we can indulge our habit almost anywhere, and so reading becomes, by sheer repetition, associated with other habits and necessities of daily life.


Spiritual Wellbeing Christian Tradition Cognitive Work Unwritten Rule Meat Grinder 
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© Thomas Mc Laughlin 2015

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  • Thomas Mc Laughlin

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