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date: 26 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the importance of touch to the practice of reading. While all reading begins with touch (we hold books and turn pages), accounts of literacy tend to downplay this contact with the text, conceiving of reading as a purely cognitive activity. We speak not of touching books but of finding them touching. But thinking about reading in relation to touch is important because it can upset the logic of linearity and rationalism associated with an optic approach to literacy. Through its reciprocity, touch destabilizes agency, exposing the complex dependencies of subjects and objects. This chapter examines a variety of texts that invite a haptic response, including artist’s books, book performances, and digital apps that highlight cutaneous contact. It argues that post-Enlightenment ideals of distanced cognition must be tempered by the textured trace of the physical book and its affective role in our lives.

Keywords: reading, touch, tactility, haptic response, artists’ books, proprioception, body, intersubjectivity

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