This chapter examines reading. For scholars as for the secular novelists discussed in the next two chapters, reading is harder to document than handling—let alone than writing. Even as literary critics shifted their focus from the authorial exception to the readerly rule, reader-response theorists and reception historians alike continued to study the text as a linguistic structure, at the expense of the book as a material thing. Indeed, mental actions prove harder to track than manual gestures—human traces that are not intentional, let alone textual, let alone literary. From evidence of reading to nonevidence of reading to evidence of nonreading: those bodily acts that both accompany and replace reading, whether licking a page or turning down a corner, should provide historians of the book with more than a consolation prize.
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