Reading Material in Early Modern England rediscovers the practices and representations of a wide range of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English readers. Heidi Brayman Hackel argues for a history of reading centered on the traces left by merchants and maidens, gentlewomen and servants, adolescents and matrons - precisely those readers whose entry into the print marketplace provoked debate and changed the definition of literacy. By telling their stories and insisting upon their variety, Brayman Hackel displaces both the singular 'ideal' reader of literary theory and the elite male reader of literary history. This interdisciplinary study draws upon portraiture, prefaces, marginalia, commonplace books, inventories, diaries, letters, and literature (Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Greene, Dekker, Lyly, Jonson, and others). A contribution to literary studies, the history of the book, cultural history, and feminist criticism, this accessible book will also appeal to readers interested in our continuing engagement with print and the evolution of reading material.
Heidi Brayman Hackel is Assistant Professor of English at Oregon State University and author of several essays on early modern readers, literacy, and libraries.