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Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker, eds. Reading, Society and Politics in Early Modern England.
Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. x + 363 pp. index. illus. $70. ISBN: 0-521-82434-6.
Reading, Society and Politics in Early Modern England, although a collection of good essays on various relationships between reading, readers, and print in early modern England, is something less than a good collection. It intends to initiate a history of reading that, according to Kevin Sharpe and Steven Zwicker, critics and theorists of late have urged. The editors maintain that recent scholarly approaches have inevitably "led us to the reader. They have theorized the position of the reader; they have suggested the social dimensions of reading; they have sketched the material culture of the book. What they have not achieved, or even attempted, is a history of reading or a historicizing of readers" (2). This collection of essays presumably seeks to fill the void. Its eleven essays, whose titles betray the editors' interest in reiterating the political nature of reading, offer diverse explorations on the relationships between texts and reading, between reading and society, and between books and politics, but almost never between "reading, society, and politics."
The considerable amount of scholarly work that actually has been done on …