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Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century

Christina Lupton

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How did eighteenth-century readers find and make time to read?

Books have always posed a problem of time for readers. Becoming widely available in the eighteenth century—when working hours increased and lighter and quicker forms of reading (newspapers, magazines, broadsheets) surged in popularity—the material form of the codex book invited readers to situate themselves creatively in time. Drawing on letters, diaries, reading logs, and a range of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels, Christina Lupton’s Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century concretely describes how…

How did eighteenth-century readers find and make time to read?

Books have always posed a problem of time for readers. Becoming widely available in the eighteenth century—when working hours increased and lighter and quicker forms of reading (newspapers, magazines, broadsheets) surged in popularity—the material form of the codex book invited readers to situate themselves creatively in time. Drawing on letters, diaries, reading logs, and a range of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novels, Christina Lupton’s Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century concretely describes how book-readers of the past carved up, expanded, and anticipated time.

Placing canonical works by Elizabeth Inchbald, Henry Fielding, Amelia Opie, and Samuel Richardson alongside those of lesser-known authors and readers, Lupton approaches books as objects that are good at attracting particular forms of attention and paths of return. In contrast to the digital interfaces of our own moment and the ephemeral newspapers and pamphlets read in the 1700s, books are rarely seen as shaping or keeping modern time. However, as Lupton demonstrates, books are often put down and picked up, they are leafed through as well as read sequentially, and they are handed on as objects designed to bridge temporal distances. In showing how discourse itself engages with these material practices, Lupton argues that reading is something to be studied textually as well as historically.

Applying modern theorists such as Niklas Luhmann, Bruno Latour, and Bernard Stiegler, Lupton offers a rare phenomenological approach to the study of a concrete historical field. This compelling book stands out for the combination of archival research, smart theoretical inquiry, and autobiographical reflection it brings into play.

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Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century

Christina Lupton

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Reviews

The big achievement here is to set the book in motion, wrenching it free of its disciplinary moorings and putting it back into the flux and flow of time. Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century is a slim book, but dense, pointing forward itself to future possibilities and new angles on the history of reading.

Memoir-like elements give Lupton's book a vivid immediacy rarely achieved in scholarly writing... she shows us how reading feels, in both its social and its most deeply personal aspects... Her book goes beyond the perennial problem of how, amid life's many distractions, we might carve out time to read. Reading itself, she argues, "makes" time: books allow us to apprehend time as something elusive and elastic, less a resource to be exploited than an experience to be explored.

The excitement of acquiring concrete, pocketable books in the hope of perhaps someday reading their contents forms in the mind a modest but palpable self who may be permitted by circumstance to do so—a self still waiting in the wings. For them Reading and the Making of Time is written.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
216
ISBN
9781421425764
Illustration Description
1 halftone
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: When Do We Read?
The Shortness of Time / The Tense of Reading / Literature as Resistance / The Difference Time Makes / Media History as Literary Method

Chapter One: Time

Acknowledgments

Introduction: When Do We Read?
The Shortness of Time / The Tense of Reading / Literature as Resistance / The Difference Time Makes / Media History as Literary Method

Chapter One: Time Divided
No Difference / Talbot’s Lack of Time / Breaking the Weekly Round / Some Sunday Readers / Sir Charles Comes and Goes

Chapter Two: Joining Up Time
Rereading for Happiness / Slow Translation / Grenville’s Reading Journals /Lifetimes of Reading

Chapter Three: Other Times
Reading in the Field / Linear and Random Access / Literature and Contingency / Amelia’s Beginning with the End / Sidney Bidulph and the Twice-Told Marriage / The Griffiths’ Marriage by the Book

Chapter Four: Time to Come
Stockpiling / Romantic Media / A Simple Story: Reading Comes Later / Godwin: The Future Is Now / Hardcover Truths / You Can’t Skip Pages

Coda: Academic Time

Notes
Works Cited
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Christina Lupton

Christina Lupton is an associate professor at the University of Warwick. She is the author of Knowing Books: The Consciousness of Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain.
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