The Practice and Politics of Reading, 650-1500
by Daniel Donoghue, James Simpson, Nicholas Watson, Anna Wilson (eds.) 2022
About the Authors
Daniel Donoghue is Professor of English at Harvard University. His research explores Old English, Middle English, the History of English, Medievalism and Cognitive Literary Studies.
James Simpson teaches English at Harvard University. He publishes on a wide range of topics in on late medieval and early modern Western European Literature.
Nicholas Watson teaches English at Harvard University. His research focuses on medieval English and North European literature, intellectual history, visionary writing and the role of the written vernacular.
Anna Wilson teaches English at Harvard University. Her research interests include Medieval English literature and literary culture, fanfiction and fan communities, and medieval gender, sexuality, and race.
About the Book
A new look at how reading was practised and represented in England from the seventh century to the beginnings of the print era, finding many kinships between reading cultures across the medieval longue durée.
Even as it transforms human cultures, routines, attention spans, and the wiring of our brains, the media revolution of the last few decades also urges a reconsideration of the long history of reading. The essays in this volume take a new look at how reading was practised and represented in England from the seventh century to the beginnings of the print era, using texts from Aldhelm to Malory and Wynkyn de Worde, arguing that whether unpicking intricate Latin, contemplating image-texts, or participating in semiotically-rich public rituals, reading cultivated and energized the subject’s values, perceptions, and attitudes to the world.
Part I, “Practices of Reading”, asks how writers, scribes and artists engaged readerly attention through textual layout, poetic form, hermeneutic difficulty, or images, while Part II, “Politics of Reading”, explores how different textual communities manipulated the anxieties and opportunities for education, moral improvement or entertainment associated with reading; particular topics addressed include Bible translation and exegesis, page layout, literary form and readerly practice, fiction, hermeneutics, and performance. Although it understands reading as culturally and technologically localized, the book finds many kinships between reading cultures across the medieval longue durée and the literatures and literacies that proliferate today.
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