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A cultural practice
Author: Vincent Quinn

Drawing on materials from the medieval period to the twenty-first century, Reading: a cultural practice explores how concepts of reading change according to historical and social context. Combining a history of reading with insights drawn from critical theory, the book argues that reading is always implicated in ideology, and that reading is especially linked to religious and educational structures. Examining a variety of texts and genres, including books of hours, Victorian fiction, the art and literature of the Bloomsbury Group, and contemporary social media sites, the opening chapters give an overview of the history of reading from the classical period onwards. The discussion then focuses on the following key concepts: close reading, the common reader, reading and postmodernism, reading and technology. The book uses these areas to set in motion a larger discussion about the relationship between professional and non-professional forms of reading. Standing up for the reader’s right to read in any way that they like, the book argues that academia’s obsession with textual interpretation bears little relationship to the way that most non-academic readers engage with written language. As well as analysing pivotal moments in the history of reading, the book puts pre-twentieth-century concepts of reading into dialogue with insights derived from post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction. This means that as well as providing a history of reading, the book analyses such major preoccupations in reading theory as reading’s relation to visual culture, how reading is taught in schools, and feminist and queer reading practices.

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Jane Austen in a post-truth age
Vincent Quinn

‘really’ going on in a given situation. The final sections of this book will return to the technological aspects of this terrain but first I want to think more generally about the effect that debates on ‘truth’ have had on how we think about reading. ‘Fake news’ presents a dilemma that is in some ways opposite to that discussed in the previous chapter. I. A. Richards asked his students to evaluate unattributed but genuine literary works: they did not know what they were reading but they knew that it had been written and published by a real person. By contrast

in Reading
Vincent Quinn

‘Gracious child, how you gobble.’ A young girl stands before a bearded man, a book in her hands. She has climbed three storeys to the smoke-filled room. It’s where the old man works – he works at reading. And the girl wants to do the same. In the pause that follows, she stares at the ash on her father’s sleeves. She cannot see his mouth: his beard rubs it out. The gap between the two of them expands until she fancies that she can hear her mother ordering dinner, her sister sketching on the floor below. Meanwhile London is growing all

in Reading
Vincent Quinn

In 1985 the book historian Armando Petrucci expressed pessimism about reading’s place in a world dominated by new technologies: Western reading practices were being eroded, he argued, by habits contracted from other media. In a move that would have seemed less quaint when it was originally formulated, he complained that ‘the use of remote-control devices has given television spectators the power to change channels instantly, jumping from a film to a debate, from a game show to a news programme, from a commercial announcement to a soap opera’. For Petrucci

in Reading
Vincent Quinn

is not the news, then how do the rest of us know what we are looking for, and how will we know when we find it? In one sense the answer is straightforward: we discover ‘what is found there’ by reading. But, as I have argued throughout this book, ‘reading’ is a set of diverse practices rather than a single, easily comprehended activity. ‘What is found there’ may include ‘what we put there’, ‘what we fail to see’, and ‘what we couldn’t help noticing because the publisher mentioned it on the back of the book’. Most of us are untroubled by such issues; it is enough to

in Reading
Vincent Quinn

The chances are, you aren’t reading this out loud. Nor are you listening to someone recite it. In the early twenty-first century, in the majority of Western contexts, reading books is a silent, non-communal activity. We may read in waiting rooms and parks – even, sometimes, in libraries – but we rarely make direct contact with the people who surround us. On the contrary, a glance around a rush-hour train indicates that reading is one of the key ways by which we insulate ourselves from other people, albeit by immersing ourselves in the alternative

in Reading
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Vincent Quinn

Instead of a conventional summing-up, I want to finish this study by placing three cultural objects alongside each other so that I can ask what they might tell us about reading and its futures. The first is a poem, the second a work of literary theory, and the third a piece of visual and conceptual art. Although they date from the first quarter of the twenty-first century, each one speaks, simultaneously, to the past and the future. In ‘Confessions of a Reading Machine’ (2011), the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska talks in the voice of ‘Number Three

in Reading
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Vincent Quinn

odd formulation, though, not least in its fantasy of representative singularity. That is, it conjures up an imaginary individual who somehow stands for the public at large. As the previous chapter argues, any historical moment or cultural location will contain a variety of reading practices – there is no such thing as a single ‘reading public’. But at least the phrase ‘the reading public’ acknowledges a multiplicity of readers. By contrast, references to ‘the common reader’ present a single person as the embodiment of a supposedly universal set of thoughts and

in Reading
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An act of queering citizenship
Zalfa Feghali

1 Reading: an act of queering citizenship The very idea of queering citizenship can be confounding. In an essay entitled ‘Queer Citizenship/​ Queer Representation: Politics Out of Bounds?’ Kathleen B. Jones and Sue Dunlap investigate the idea of what they call queer citizenship, based on ‘the building of a different kind of democratic community’ as one they are unable to define or pin down.1 In exploring US and Canadian literary texts that reflect on the limitations of contemporary understandings of citizenship, this book posits a queering of citizenship using

in Crossing borders and queering citizenship
Marginal annotation as private commentary
Federica Coluzzi

Robert Hollander as ‘aid to the systematic computerization’ of the DDP ( Hollander, 1983 : 181) is slightly more inclusive as it acknowledges also the Notes by J. W. Thomas (1859–66), A. J. Butler (1880–92), Plumptre (1886–87) as well as Vernon’s Readings (1889–1909). Neither one of them accounted for the core of the century, conveying the representation of the Romantic and Victorian ages as periods of hermeneutical

in Dante beyond influence