Acts of Reading: Interpretation, Reading Practices, and the Idea of the Book in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments

Acts of Reading: Interpretation, Reading Practices, and the Idea of the Book in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments

Acts of Reading: Interpretation, Reading Practices, and the Idea of the Book in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments

Acts of Reading: Interpretation, Reading Practices, and the Idea of the Book in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments

Synopsis

Acts of Reading examines how John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments shaped reading and interpretive practice in the early modern period and addresses the impact of recent electronic editions of Foxe’s text on current reading practice and scholarship. The collection draws on history-of-the-book scholarship to make a plea for the centrality of Foxe to any discussion of Renaissance literary history. These essays also productively attend to the relationship between the materiality of books and the conceptual assumptions that govern our engagement with them. The anthology’s focus on digital editions of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs allows it to explore the often conflicted relationship between modern technologies of book production and reception and the early modern texts transmitted via these technologies. More broadly, Acts of Reading explores how books, and our encounters with them through different media, turn us into who we are.

Thomas P. Anderson is an Assistant Professor of English at Mississippi State University.

Ryan Netzley is an Assistant Professor of English at Southern Illinois University.

Excerpt

We do not know what reading is even when it takes place under
our own noses.

—Robert Darnton, “How to Read a Book”

What most threatens reading is this: the reader’s reality, his per
sonality, his immodesty, his stubborn insistence upon remaining
himself in the face of what he reads—a man who knows in gen
eral how to read.

—Maurice Blanchot, The Space of Literature

John Foxe's sixteenth-century martyrology, the actes and Monuments, has played an increasingly important role in recent studies of the history of the book and material print culture. As one of our contributors, John N. King, has recently argued, this history is significantly expanded by a consideration of Foxe’s massive book, which contains not only multiple genres—from historical documents to poems—but also a complex welter of material elements: multiple fonts; extensive editorial and paratextual features, including marginal glosses, woodcuts, and engravings, some with empty banderoles inviting readers to write in their own text; two-color printing; indices; and cross-references. in fact, King characterizes his study of the publication history of the Book of Martyrs, the more famous title of Foxe’s volume, as “the history of a book that epitomizes the history of the book in early modern England.” Drawing on this recent scholarship, this volume explores, in part, how a history of Foxe’s book as a material artifact also offers a history of reading. Thus, the essays collected here explore how Foxe’s text and the media of its transmission, including modern electronic editions, produce and require a wide array of reading practices. in addition, several contributors focus on early modern rereadings and rewritings of the Book of Martyrs in order to explore how Foxe’s contemporaries actually . . .

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