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Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities

Overview

In Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire, William Johnson examines the system and culture of reading among the elite in second-century Rome. The investigation proceeds in case-study fashion using the principal surviving witnesses, beginning with the communities of Pliny and Tacitus (with a look at Pliny's teacher, Quintilian) from the time of the emperor Trajan. Johnson then moves on to explore elite reading during the era of the Antonines, including the medical community around Galen, the ...

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Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire: A Study of Elite Communities

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Overview

In Readers and Reading Culture in the High Roman Empire, William Johnson examines the system and culture of reading among the elite in second-century Rome. The investigation proceeds in case-study fashion using the principal surviving witnesses, beginning with the communities of Pliny and Tacitus (with a look at Pliny's teacher, Quintilian) from the time of the emperor Trajan. Johnson then moves on to explore elite reading during the era of the Antonines, including the medical community around Galen, the philological community around Gellius and Fronto (with a look at the curious reading habits of Fronto's pupil Marcus Aurelius), and the intellectual communities lampooned by the satirist Lucian. Along the way, evidence from the papyri is deployed to help to understand better and more concretely both the mechanics of reading, and the social interactions that surrounded the ancient book. The result is a rich cultural history of individual reading communities that differentiate themselves in interesting ways even while in aggregate showing a coherent reading culture with fascinating similarities and contrasts to the reading culture of today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[An] outstanding study of ancient reading practices.... A nuanced history of reading practices in one well-defined era with a clear social and political backdrop."—James Ker, Classical Journal

"This is a book full of imaginative insights, and there is a lot here to encourage further thought about reading and writing (in fact, literacy), culture and its renewal among generations, and performance and identity. Not to sound like an imperial vir doctus, I recommend that we read and discuss this book."—American Journal of Philology

"J[ohnson]'s efforts to bring his expertise in material artifacts to bear on our understanding of ancient Roman's use of texts is wholly admirable." —Classical Philology

"Recommended." —CHOICE

"Readers and Reading Culture is an engaging work of cultural history. Johnson weighs evidence, allows for the idealizing or satirical slants of the texts and draws conclusions about real societies."—Gail Trimble, The Times Literary Supplement

"Overall, Johnson has produced a fascinating and useful study looking at not just the words authors have written, but what they are trying to produce through their writings. By looking at the readers as much as the writers (or at least the ideal reader the author is addressing), the author shines a light on how texts were read and appreciated in the high empire, and the importance of literary appreciation and a certain type of paideia for both authors and readers."—Francesca Sapsford, Rosetta

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199926718
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Series: Classical Culture and Society Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

William A. Johnson is Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
1. Reading as a Sociocultural System
2. The Pragmatics of Reading
3. Pliny and the Construction of Literary Culture
4. Pliny, Tacitus, and the Dialogus de oratoribus
5. Doctors and Intellectuals: Galen's Reading Community
6. Aulus Gellius: The Life of the Litteratus
7. Fronto and Aurelius: Contubernium and Solitary Reader
8. Lucian's Insufficient Intellectual
9. The Papyri: Scholars and Reading Communities in Graeco-Roman Egypt
10. Conclusion
Abbreviations
1. Reading as a Sociocultural System
2. The Pragmatics of Reading
3. Pliny and the Construction of Literary Culture
4. Pliny, Tacitus, and the Dialogus de oratoribus
5. Doctors and Intellectuals: Galen's Reading Community
6. Aulus Gellius: The Life of the Litteratus
7. Fronto and Aurelius: Contubernium and Solitary Reader
8. Lucian's Insufficient Intellectual
9. The Papyri: Scholars and Reading Communities in Graeco-Roman Egypt
10. Conclusion

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