Reorienting the narrative of digital media studies to incorporate the medieval, Participatory reading in late-medieval England traces affinities between digital and medieval media to explore how participation defined reading practices and shaped relations between writers and readers in England’s literary culture from the late-fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Traditionally, print operates as the comparative touchstone of both medieval and digital media, but Participatory reading argues that the latter share more in common with each other than either does with print. Working on the borders of digital humanities, medieval cultural studies, and the history of the book, Participatory reading draws on well-known and little-studied works ranging from Chaucer to banqueting poems and wall-texts to demonstrate how medieval writers and readers engaged with practices familiar in digital media today, from crowd-sourced editing to nonlinear apprehension to mobility, temporality, and forensic materiality illuminate. Writers turned to these practices in order to both elicit and control readers’ engagement with their works in ways that would benefit the writers’ reputations along with the transmission and interpretation of their texts, while readers pursued their own agendas—which could conflict with or set aside writers’ attempts to frame readers’ work. The interactions that gather around participatory reading practices reflect concerns about authority, literacy, and media formats, before and after the introduction of print. Participatory reading is of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, book, and reading history, in addition to those interested in the long history of media studies.
Reading practices and participation in digital and medieval media
self-interest, digital media can
offer much to those studying media studies, literary culture, and
bookhistory in the late Middle Ages. In digital media, participation
relates to interaction, which together have been used to emphasize
the ground-breaking nature of the digital, initially perceived as
setting ‘new’ media aside from ‘old’ media. While that divisive
view has since diminished in the current approaches of digital
media studies, which recognize greater continuity among historical
forms of media, the attention given to participation still proves
Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and John Lydgate’s Troy Book
, Lydgate also seeks to ensure the
integrity of his text and its reputation along with his own, but he
instead turns to his broad community of non-professional readers.
Situating Chaucer, Lydgate, and Norton within the discourse
of open and closed access asserts connection between the preand post-print media cultures. The analogues between medieval
emendation invitations and modern editorial practices provide an
alternative way to consider associational, rather than chronological,
narratives of bookhistory.
Participatory reading in late-medieval England