Reorienting the narrative of digital media studies to incorporate the medieval, Participatory reading in late-medieval England traces affinities between digital and medieval media to explore how participation defined reading practices and shaped relations between writers and readers in England’s literary culture from the late-fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Traditionally, print operates as the comparative touchstone of both medieval and digital media, but Participatory reading argues that the latter share more in common with each other than either does with print. Working on the borders of digital humanities, medieval cultural studies, and the history of the book, Participatory reading draws on well-known and little-studied works ranging from Chaucer to banqueting poems and wall-texts to demonstrate how medieval writers and readers engaged with practices familiar in digital media today, from crowd-sourced editing to nonlinear apprehension to mobility, temporality, and forensic materiality illuminate. Writers turned to these practices in order to both elicit and control readers’ engagement with their works in ways that would benefit the writers’ reputations along with the transmission and interpretation of their texts, while readers pursued their own agendas—which could conflict with or set aside writers’ attempts to frame readers’ work. The interactions that gather around participatory reading practices reflect concerns about authority, literacy, and media formats, before and after the introduction of print. Participatory reading is of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, book, and reading history, in addition to those interested in the long history of media studies.
The editor and contributors wish to thank and acknowledge the support and assistance they have received from Andrea Newman, Ashley Pearce, Stephen Parton, Mammoth Screen Ltd, ITV Ltd and Mammoth Screen Productions, Abbie Weinberg, Rachel Ward, Jane Smiley and Lynn Pleshette, Screen Australia, Screen New South Wales, the South Australian Film Corporation, Leah Churchill-Brown, Faber & Faber, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux (Macmillan) and all at HarperCollins, Pathé Production, Luisa Fisher, Simon J. James, Pamela Osborn, Mark Sandy, Colin Theakston, Patricia Waugh, Sarah Wootton and Frances White.
We are grateful to David Miller, Editor of the Journal of Literary and Trauma Studies, and to Nebraska Press, for allowing us to draw upon content for the introduction covered previously in Emma V. Miller’s article ‘“We must not forget that there was a crime”: Incest, domestic violence and textual memory in the novels of Iris Murdoch’, Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies 1:2 (University of Nebraska Press, Fall 2012), pp. 65–94, doi.org/10.1353/jlt.2012.0014.
None of this would be possible without the support of our colleagues and families.
This work owes much to the vision and endeavour of Emma V. Miller, without whom the collection would not have come to fruition: it is dedicated to her.