by Jessica C. Murphy

(Note: I think that someone doing work on early modern women’s reading would be great for this conference)

Newcastle University, UK, 11-12 April 2008
Keynote Speakers:
• Jason Scott-Warren (Cambridge)
• Cathy Shrank (Sheffield)
• Daniel Wakelin (Cambridge)
The history of reading has experienced an explosive growth in recent years. Scholars of early modern England have been at the forefront of research in this area, and studies of the reading practices of a number of notable figures, including Gabriel Harvey, John Dee, Ben Jonson, and Sir William Drake, have appeared over the last fifteen years. Historians have gleaned from notebooks and marginalia a model of reading as utilitarian; this values the text primarily as a resource to be mined for information or turns of phrase and applied to the life or writings of the reader or their patron. Such work has offered many important insights, but it has perhaps also narrowed our understanding of the practice of reading and its social and political import. It does not give us a model that is flexible enough to explain the relationship between reading and the development of ‘literary’ form, nor does it recognise the diverse practical, political and social interests which reading may have served.

We invite proposals for conference papers which aim to extend or complicate our understanding of early modern readers and reading practice. This might be understood to include the conversations – or indeed quarrels – which follow particular texts; the act of reading itself as dialogic; readings that ‘go against the grain’; the sense of literary
writings as acts of reading; reading as information gathering and the organization of knowledge; and textual exchange as a form of association, or negotiation, between individuals, communities, and cultures.

Specific subjects which contributors might address include (but are not limited to):
• Paratexts and marginalia
• Rhetoric and imitation
• Translation
• Book and manuscript circulation
• Book ownership
• Reading communities
• Dialogue and civil conversation
• Oppositional reading
• Censorship
• Reading and politics
• Reformation and religious controversy
• Education and reading
• Scientific reading
• Information management
Please send proposals (100 words) by 7 December 2007 to: Fred Schurink ( or Jennifer Richards (