Reading

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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