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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.

The mental world of a seventeenth-century Catholic gentleman
Author: Geoff Baker

This book examines the activities of William Blundell, a seventeenth-century Catholic gentleman, and using the approaches of the history of reading provides a detailed analysis of his mindset. Blundell was neither the passive victim nor the entirely loyal subject that he and others have claimed. He actively defended his family from the penal laws and used the relative freedom that this gave him to patronise other Catholics. In his locality, Blundell ensured that the township of Little Crosby was populated almost entirely by his co-religionists, on a national level he constructed and circulated arguments supporting the removal of the penal laws, and on an international level he worked as an agent for the Poor Clares of Rouen. That he cannot be defined solely by his victimhood is further supported by his commonplace notes. Not only did Blundell rewrite the histories of recent civil conflicts to show that Protestants were prone to rebellion and Catholics to loyalty, but we also find a different perspective on his religious beliefs. His commonplaces suggest an underlying tension with aspects of Catholicism that is manifest throughout his notes on his practical engagement with the world, in which it is clear that he was wrestling with the various aspects of his identity. This examination of Blundell's political and cultural worlds complicates generalisations about early modern religious identities.

Rethinking reception in Victorian literary culture

Dante Beyond Influence provides the first systematic inquiry into the formation of the British critical and scholarly discourse on Dante in the late nineteenth century (1865–1921). Overcoming the primacy of literary influence and intertextuality, it instead historicises and conceptualises the hermeneutic turn in British reception history as the product of major transformations in Victorian intellectual, social and publishing history.

The volume unpacks the phenomenology of Victorian dantismo through the analysis of five case studies and the material examination of a newly discovered body of manuscript and print sources. Extending over a sixty-year long period, the book retraces the sophistication of the Victorian modes of readerly and writerly engagement with Dantean textuality. It charts its outward expression as a public criticism circulating in prominent nineteenth-century periodicals and elucidates its wider popularisation (and commodification) through Victorian mass-publishing. It ultimately brings forth the mechanism that led to the specialisation of the scholarly discourse and the academisation of Dante studies in traditional and extramural universities. Drawing on the new disciplines of book history and history of reading, the author provides unprecedented insight into the private intellectual life and public work of Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, William E. Gladstone, and introduces a significant cohort of Dante critics, scholars and learned societies hitherto passed unnoticed.

As it recaptures a long-neglected moment in Dante’s reception history, this path-breaking book illuminates the wider socio-cultural and economic impact that the Victorian hermeneutic turn had in advancing women’s access to literary and scholarly professions, educational reform and discipline formation.

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Reading early modern women and the poem
Patricia Pender and Rosalind Smith

reading, considered alongside the materiality of texts, a number of essays in this collection argue for specific cases where women’s poetry has been suppressed through histories of reading, recording and circulation.6 A broader conceptualisation of the imaginative and formal possibilities available to the early modern woman writer through textual example means that the question of her enduring marginalisation must be located elsewhere, outside the options available to her when confronted with the blank page and a range of textual precedents. Read collectively, the

in Early modern women and the poem
Elisabeth Salter

and associated issues of how to employ empirical evidence in a non empiricist mode. Critical issues forming a vocabulary The history of reading The history of reading is a burgeoning area of scholarly interest at present and this has brought renewed attention to studies of the manuscript and early printed book, especially given the simultaneous revival of interest in material culture.6 Indeed, one of the key scholars of the history of reading, Roger Chartier, frequently asserts the necessary connections between the material form of the text being read and the

in Popular reading in English c. 1400–1600
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Historicism, whither wilt?
Christopher D’Addario

followed an entirely different chronology. If we turn away from political history and towards the history of reading and reception, to the changing ways in which readers experienced books, the moments of radical discontinuity might appear even more distinct. As Steven Zwicker’s research on book imprints before and after 1660 has shown, the landscape of printed books looks quite similar before and after the return of the Stuarts.26 1642 101 part ii: rethinking context becomes pivotal, not only for the outbreak of open hostilities between king and Parliament, but also for

in Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell
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Christopher D’Addario

, it is to admit that the use of these categories often does not exhaust and can even occlude a text’s possible meanings. Much work in the history of reading in fact now emphasises the ideological diversity of a text’s readers and thus of its potentialities.3 Beyond this growing awareness of readers creating meanings against the assumed political grain, and of texts and authors operating in politically complex and multifaceted ways, trends in literary criticism, such as ecocriticism, affect studies, and network theory, have similarly sought to develop readings of

in Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell
Vincent Quinn

the classical context, is a means to an end, the end being the vocalisation of the text. 5 Here we reach a question that bedevils histories of reading, namely the status of silent and non-silent reading in the ancient world. According to some historians, silent reading only became the norm around eleven centuries ago, which is several thousand years after the emergence of writing. 6 Other experts hold that this is an overstatement and that early readers could, and did, read silently. In many ways this is an argument about the timing of particular

in Reading
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Elizabeth Isham’s reading
Isaac Stephens

words, scholarly concern began to shift towards a pursuit of early modern readers and a history of reading. The means to do so have varied greatly, but in general have relied on such material as book titles listed in wills, inventory lists of bookshops, library inventories, court records, and marginalia found in old texts to gain insights into what people read and how they thought about what they read. Inspiration has especially derived from pioneering work by microhistorians, particularly Carlo Ginsburg and his study of the miller Menocchio and the corpus of books

in The gentlewoman’s remembrance
Glyn White

reads words; not letter by letter but by horizontal shape. This is not to suggest that reading is a simple matter of the eye travelling left to right over each line of text. In A History of Reading Alberto Manguel describes the complexity of the visual perception of text: It is usually assumed that, when we are

in Reading the graphic surface