SAS-Space, for world class research

Latest additions


Influence, Confluence, and Writing in the Margins: Reading Notes and Literary History

In her book, Marginalia: Reading Writing in Books (2001), Heather Jackson remarks that the study of marginalia has usually been limited to case histories, the analysis of individual annotators and their books. In a lucid and engaging manner, Jackson for the first time provided a “theory” of annotating by drawing on an immense corpus of examples. Considering marginalia as a genre, she describes the general principles that are characteristic of writing in the margins in terms its form, purpose, function and even aesthetic quality. Even though Jackson does not disregard historical context, her generic approach broadly amounts to a psychological treatment of reading and annotating. What can marginalia tell us about our literary heritage and print culture? How can our knowledge of the work of notetakers and note-extractors contribute to our understanding of literary history? Insofar as reception history constitutes an archaeology of literary opinion and thought, capturing fluctuations in taste, aesthetic appreciation and critical judgment, marginalia give us access to “original” opinion, to private debates between readers and writers, to what pleases or what causes dislike. The registration of a reader’s individual response—both of a general or specific nature—in the margins of a text can be used to compare readers’ ideas to the opinions of their time, and thus provide a different—if not more accurate view—of literary merit, style, canonicity, influence and so on. Using a small number of authors and annotators from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, I will in this paper try to elucidate the above statements, concentrating in particular on the notion of influence to investigate an alternative model to Bloom’s sharp distinction between strong writers and epigones.This is a revised version of a paper presented at the "Material Cultures and the Creation of Knowledge" conference at the Centre for the History of the Book, University of Edinburgh, 21-24 July 2005. <>

Van Mierlo, Wim (2006) Influence, Confluence, and Writing in the Margins: Reading Notes and Literary History. In: 'Material Cultures and the Creation of Knowledge' conference, 21-24 July 2005, Centre for the History of the Book, University of Edinburgh. (Unpublished)

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords:Literary Production, Literary History, Influence, Intertextuality, History of the Book, History of Reading, Marginalia, Reader's Response, Annotations in Books, James Joyce, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Thelwall, T. Sturge Moore, W.B. Yeats, Writing and Revision
Divisions:Institute of English Studies
Collections:IES Staff Papers
Deposited By:Repository Administrator
Date Deposited:08 Oct 2010 11:59
Last Modified:12 Oct 2010 07:46
Files available for downloadg
[img]FilenameReading Responses (Material Cultures Conf-Edinburgh 2005).doc
File size76Kb
License termsAvailable to public
Comments Notes Tags All


Add a Comment

Close comments


Add a Note - this will be visible to you alone, while you are logged in.

Note title [optional]:

Close notes
Tag this item (You may enter a comma separated list):
Close tags

Repository Staff Only
Item control page