'Folk stylistics' and the history of reading: a discussion of method



Halsey K (2009) 'Folk stylistics' and the history of reading: a discussion of method. Language and Literature, 18 (3), pp. 231-246.;

The Reading Experience Database 1450-1945 contains more than 25,000 pieces of evidence about reading habits and practices over five centuries, and of these, more than 1500 directly discuss the literary style of the works read, while others make indirect comments on style. This evidence shows literary critics and common readers alike commenting on issues of 'good' or 'imitable' style; describing how easy the work is to read aloud, recording their impressions of the 'morality' of the style; identifying anonymous authors by their style; and making literary judgements on the basis of style. By tracing these remarks over a long historical period (1450 to 1945), we can reconstruct the prevailing stylistic concerns of individual readers and communities of readers, and test grand historical or literary narratives against the everyday experiences of common readers. This article focuses on the period 1800-1945, and considers the ways in which the historicist and evidence-based methods of the new sub-discipline of the history of reading might be used to complement traditional stylistic analyses and methods.

History of Reading, Stylistics

Language and Literature: Volume 18, Issue 3

Publication date31/08/2009
Publisher URL

People (1)


Professor Katherine Halsey

Professor Katherine Halsey

Professor, English Studies