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From Codex to Hypertext

From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twentyfirst Century

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    From Codex to Hypertext
    Book Description:

    The start of the twentyfirst century has brought with it a rich variety of ways in which readers can connect with one another, access texts, and make sense of what they are reading. At the same time, new technologies have also opened up exciting possibilities for scholars of reading and reception in offering them unprecedented amounts of data on reading practices, book buying patterns, and book collecting habits. In From Codex to Hypertext, scholars from multiple disciplines engage with both of these strands. This volume includes essays that consider how changes such as the mounting ubiquity of digital technology and the globalization of structures of publication and book distribution are shaping the way readers participate in the encoding and decoding of textual meaning. Contributors also examine how and why reading communities cohere in a range of contexts, including prisons, book clubs, networks of zinesters, statefunded programs designed to promote active citizenship, and online spaces devoted to sharing one’s tastes in books. As concerns circulate in the media about the ways that reading—for so long anchored in print culture and the codex—is at risk of being irrevocably altered by technological shifts, this book insists on the importance of tracing the historical continuities that emerge between these reading practices and those of previous eras. In addition to the volume editor, contributors include Daniel Allington, Bethan Benwell, Jin Feng, Ed Finn, Danielle Fuller, David S. Miall, Julian Pinder, Janice Radway, Julie Rak, DeNel Rehberg Sedo, Megan Sweeney, Joan Bessman Taylor, Molly Abel Travis, and David Wright.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-200-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Transforming Reading
    (pp. 1-24)
    Anouk Lang

    To investigate reading practices in the decades on either side of the turn of the twenty-first century is to expose a rapidly evolving field whose inner dynamics are still in the process of being mapped and understood. Interpretive practices that previously might have been found only among a small circle of intimates can now be shared and disseminated online, and as a result are becoming visible, searchable, and, increasingly, commercially significant. The same is occurring with the digital traces left by book purchasing. A variety of technological developments are emerging as alternatives to existing systems of book production and distribution:...


    • 1 ZINES THEN AND NOW What Are They? What Do You Do With Them? How Do They Work?
      (pp. 27-47)
      Janice Radway

      Zines are peculiar.¹ There’s no way around that fact. They are well known enough to have been the subject of a number of compilations, anthologies, books, and films devoted to their analysis, most issued since 1990.² They are considered significant enough to be archived at a number of university, state, and big city libraries in the United States.³ Collections have also been developed in Europe, the UK, Canada, and New Zealand.⁴ The wealth of online material relating to zines includes an alternative online encyclopedia dedicated to zines in general, known as Zinewiki, as well as an elaborate site, Grrrl Zine...

    • 2 HAVE MOUSE, WILL TRAVEL Consuming and Creating Chinese Popular Literature on the Web
      (pp. 48-67)
      Jin Feng

      The democratizing power of the World Wide Web in China, a favorite topic of both Chinese and Western scholars,¹ seems to have been borne out by official statistics. According to the state-run China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC),² by December 2009 more than 384 million people had accessed the Internet in mainland China. A survey by CNNIC released in January 2009 claims that 22.6 percent of the Chinese population accessed the Internet, higher than the global average. Although Chinese users still tend to be young, urban, and well educated, statistics reveal some distinct changes from previous years. As of 2009,...

    • 3 ONLINE LITERARY COMMUNITIES A Case Study of LibraryThing
      (pp. 68-87)
      Julian Pinder

      At first glance, the website LibraryThing ( offers a means for readers to catalogue their book collections online. When a user enters a title, author, or ISBN into LibraryThing, the site retrieves the book’s bibliographic data from, the Library of Congress, or one of over 690 libraries around the world.¹ The book can be added to an online catalogue of the user’s collection, which can then be displayed on screen and searched or shared with others.

      While this in itself is a useful tool for anyone with a large or unwieldy library, the site also utilizes this information for...

      (pp. 88-107)
      Molly Abel Travis

      Speaking to South African publishers and booksellers in 2002, Minister of Education Kader Asmal detailed the Department of Education’s “vision of a reading nation” and concluded that to achieve this vision, “we must create a culture of reading.”¹ Minister Asmal’s call for a national culture of reading in post-apartheid South Africa has become a constant refrain. In a keynote lecture at the 2004 Symposium on Cost of a Culture of Reading, Elinor Sisulu, chair of the Book Development Foundation of the Centre for the Book, a unit of the National Library of South Africa, summarized the cost of failure: “The...

      (pp. 108-123)
      David Wright

      The ways in which we come to know, like, and choose books at the start of the twenty-first century suggest that a reconsideration of some established theoretical narratives about literary taste is merited. This chapter introduces and develops the concept of “list culture” as a means of investigating these issues. The starting point for this analysis is a gap, identified by Elizabeth Long, in the research surrounding the “literary.” Researchers have studied numerous elements of literary activity, from the biographies of particular authors to semiotic and psychological accounts of textual interpretation, and from popular literary participation to patterns of literacy....

    • 6 “KEEPIN’ IT REAL” Incarcerated Women’s Readings of African American Urban Fiction
      (pp. 124-141)
      Megan Sweeney

      Urban fiction—also known as gangsta lit, street lit, ghetto fiction, and hip-hop fiction—has taken the U.S. publishing world by storm. Bearing titles such asThugs and the Women Who Love ThemandForever a Hustler’s Wife, urban books feature African Americans who are involved in urban street crime, including drug dealing, hustling, prostitution, and murder. The genre has gained immense popularity, particularly among young black women, since the 1999 publication of Sister Souljah’s best-selling novelThe Coldest Winter Ever. Its roots extend further back, however, to African American novels about ghetto life such as Iceberg Slim’sPimp: The...

    • 7 PRODUCING MEANING THROUGH INTERACTION Book Groups and the Social Context of Reading
      (pp. 142-158)
      Joan Bessman Taylor

      As the book historian Robert Darnton has observed: “The inner experience of ordinary readers may always elude us. But we should at least be able to reconstruct a good deal of the social context of reading.”¹ As established and recognizable reading communities, book discussion groups provide an access point into the social context of reading to which Darnton refers and also offer a means to uncover the often elusive reading practices of real rather than imagined, implied, or ideal readers.² These group discussions provide elaboration of the act of reading, illustrating that the reading process must be conceptualized as a...

    • 8 GENRE IN THE MARKETPLACE The Scene of Bookselling in Canada
      (pp. 159-174)
      Julie Rak

      In a collection about reading, it might seem odd to discuss something that at first glance is not about reading at all: the culture of bookstores and the kinds of information they codify and embody. But before a book can be read, it must be acquired in some fashion. There are many ways to get books into the hands of readers. For example, they can be given as gifts, awarded as prizes, borrowed from libraries, or even stolen. But at some point in the journey to readers, a book must be bought and sold like any other commodity, and unless...

  6. Part II METHODS

    • 9 NEW LITERARY CULTURES Mapping the Digital Networks of Toni Morrison
      (pp. 177-202)
      Ed Finn

      As the publishing industry scrambles to adapt to the shifting realities of electronic texts and the decline of traditional models of authorship and criticism, reading practices are expanding to include new kinds of social exchange. Although readers have always been involved in literary conversations and forms of distinction that differ profoundly from those of professional critics, millions of cultural consumers are now empowered to participate in previously closed literary conversations among authors, critics, and publishers, and to express forms of mass distinction through their purchases and evaluations of books. The twenty-first century has brought significant changes to the social lives...

    • 10 CONFOUNDING THE LITERARY Temporal Problems in Hypertext
      (pp. 203-216)
      David S. Miall

      A number of authors and critics have claimed that hypertext supersedes conventional printed literature. Moreover, theorists of hypertext have typically deprecated literary reading in print form in the belief that hypertext empowers readers, liberating them from the constraints of linear reading.¹ This theoretical challenge to the qualities of traditional print-based literary reading has never been properly answered. In this chapter I consider in what ways hypertext reading differs from the literary effects of print reading. I argue that what hypertext sacrifices, through promoting the machinery of reader choice, is the absorption of the literary reader and its invitation to develop...

    • 11 READING THE READING EXPERIENCE An Ethnomethodological Approach to “Booktalk”
      (pp. 217-233)
      Daniel Allington and Bethan Benwell

      Interviews and focus groups have long been employed to research the ways in which literary and televisual texts are understood by their contemporary consumers,¹ and the historical study of reading and of reception has often taken the same approach to written descriptions of reading experiences.² The appeal of this kind of information is obvious: where better to learn about readers than straight from the horse’s mouth?

      Nonetheless, there are problems with treating such data, whether researcher-elicited or spontaneous, as transparent. Acknowledgment of this has led to an emerging “crisis of representation”³ within the fields of cultural and reception studies, whereby...

    • 12 MIXING IT UP Using Mixed Methods Research to Investigate Contemporary Cultures of Reading
      (pp. 234-252)
      Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo

      Understanding complex cultural phenomena such as the widely adopted “One Book, One Community” (OBOC) model demands a methodology that can generate a series of standpoints on the social, ideological, material, economic, and political aspects of what we might term “formally organized” shared reading, or mass reading events (MREs). How, then, might reading studies researchers attend to these standpoints and the relations between different agents—readers, event organizers, institutions including libraries and schools, publishers, and the media—to produce a nuanced account of contemporary shared reading as a situated social practice? The investigative methods we used for the Beyond the Book...

  7. About the Contributors
    (pp. 253-254)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 255-263)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 264-264)