ATG Book of the Week: Reading and the Victorians

BenichilonTitle: Reading and the Victorians
Editor: Matthew Bradley
Hardback: ISBN: 978-1-4094-4080-2, $109.95;  
ebook PDF, ebook ePUB
Imprint: Farnham : Ashgate, 2015.

“What did reading mean to the Victorians? This question is the key point of departure for Reading and the Victorians, an examination of the era when reading underwent a swifter and more radical transformation than at any other moment in history. With book production handed over to the machines and mass education boosting literacy to unprecedented levels, the norms of modern reading were being established. Essays examine the impact of tallow candles on Victorian reading, the reading practices encouraged by Mudie’s Select Library and feminist periodicals, the relationship between author and reader as reflected in manuscript revisions and corrections, the experience of reading women’s diaries, models of literacy in Our Mutual Friend, the implications of reading marks in Victorian texts, how computer technology has assisted the study of nineteenth-century reading practices, how Gladstone read his personal library, and what contemporary non-academic readers might owe to Victorian ideals of reading and community. Reading forms a genuine meeting place for historians, literary scholars, theorists, librarians, and historians of the book, and this diverse collection examines nineteenth-century reading in all its personal, historical, literary and material contexts, while also asking fundamental questions about how we read the Victorians’ reading in the present day.”

Reviews:

 

‘This timely collection substantially advances our understanding of the practices of Victorian readers by showcasing some of the diverse recent methodologies that have attempted to capture them. The approaches represented range from analysis of the sometimes difficult material realities of reading in the nineteenth century, through considerations of its political and ideological effects, to explorations of its deepest meanings at the level of the individual writer, editor, bookseller and reader. The diversity of methods brought together here is not only likely to encourage productive debate among scholars of this burgeoning field, but also to demonstrate the importance of reception studies to literary scholarship more broadly.’

Mary Hammond, University of Southampton, UK

 

‘These reader friendly essays convey the excitement of discovering how 150 years ago reading transformed people’s lives. We learn how our forebears illuminated a reading space, created through diaries a life that counts, copiously registered their opinions in marginalia, and taught women that reading can be a dynamic, collaborative activity. We also learn that privileging reading might suppress other needful skills such as observation and imagination. These path-breaking studies significantly enrich the history we’ve inherited both of books and of readers.’

Robert L. Patten, School of Advanced Study, University of London

 

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