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H. J. Jackson. Romantic Readers: The Evidence of Marginalia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Pp. 366. $37.00. H. J. Jackson's 2005 Romantic Readers: The Evidence of Marginalia provides for the scholar or general reader an ideal introduction to the topic of marginalia. Perhaps most surprising to those who have not explored this fascinating topic will be the degree to which writing in books is--or at least was---so often a social, if not outright public, act. This surprise will be especially acute for the contemporary reader, since our general conception of "reading" and "writing" tends to posit these activities as mutually exclusive; one either reads or writes. The contemporary idea of reading often imagines a solitary and very private act. Likewise, as Jackson writes, "we nowadays assume that readers who write notes in their books are in a tiny minority of all readers, and that they do it out of habit--bad habit" (251). Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the history of reading, however, as almost all of the many examples in Jackson's work show. Throughout marginalia we find annotations directed specifically to a "reader," as well as numerous addresses to a "you," which the annotator must imagine to be some future reader, be it one specific individual or a more generalized auditor/lector. One begins to see that book sharing, particularly for the period between 1790 and 1830 that Jackson covers in Romantic Readers, may have been then what music file sharing is today. Any given book was no more a completed work, necessarily, than a digital playlist is today; on the contrary, both might circulate among a group of participants, each of whom effects changes as he or she pleases.

Professioneel en technisch
22 juni
Boston University

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