Popular reading in English c. 1400–1600

By Elisabeth Salter

Popular reading in English c. 1400–1600

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7799-9
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: August 2012
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / General, Literature, Literature & literary studies / Prose: non-fiction, Literature: history & criticism, Biography & non-fiction prose


This book is about reading practice and experience in late medieval and early modern England. It focuses on the kinds of literatures that were more readily available to the widest spectrum of the population. Four case studies from many possibilities have been selected, each examining a particular type of popular literature under the headings 'religious', 'moral', 'practical' and 'fictional'. A key concern of the book is how we might use particular types of evidence in order to understand more about reading practice and experience, so issues of method and approach are discussed fully in the opening chapter.

One distinctive element of this book is that it attempts to uncover evidence for the reading practices and experiences of real, rather than ideal, readers, using evidence that is found within the material of a book or manuscript itself, or within the structure of a specific genre of literature. Salter attempts to negotiate a path through a set of methodological and interpretive issues in order to arrive at a better understanding of how people may have read and what they may have read. This, in turn, leads on to how we may interpret the evidence that manuscripts and early printed books provide for the ways that medieval and early modern people engaged with reading.

This book will be of interest to academics and research students who study the history of reading, popular culture, literacy, manuscript and print culture, as well as to those interested more generally in medieval and early modern society and culture.


"Elisabeth Salter's book . . . deals with perhaps the most exciting period in relation to the history of reading in England . . . it is a pleasure to follow the close attention she lavishes on such under-appreciated material as the Gesta Romanorum in her chapter on 'moral reading' . . . the care with which she outlines her methods and defines her terms is also eminently laudable and sets her study apart from the broader approaches to the history of reading."
Mary C. Flannery, The TLS, 28th June 2013


Elisabeth Salter is Lecturer in the Department of English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University


List of figures
1. Introduction to methods and terms
2. Religious reading and reform
3. Making meaning from moral reading
4. Practical texts: Husbandry and carving
5. Fictional literature: gawain in a middle English miscellany

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