- Copyright Page
- List of Illustrations
- Notes on Contributors
- In Ancient Rome
- In the Classroom
- In the Custom House
- In Public
- Across Borders
- Mental Representation
- Mindreading and Social Status
- Dyslexia: Through the Eyes of da Vinci
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.
Gillian Silverman is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of Colorado Denver. She is the author of Bodies and Books: Reading and the Fantasy of Communion in Nineteenth-Century America (2012). She is currently at work on a study of reading practices and their relation to the human sensorium.
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