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How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain$
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Leah Price

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691114170

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691114170.001.0001

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Reader’s Block

Reader’s Block

(p.19) Chapter 1 Reader’s Block
How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain

Leah Price

Princeton University Press

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.

Keywords:   reading, secular novelists, scholars, writing, text, readerly rule, reader response

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