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Fever Reading
Affect and Reading Badly in the Early American Public Sphere
Michael Millner

Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies

New Hampshire
2012 • 216 pp. 6 x 9"
Literary Criticism - American / Literary Criticism - 19th Century / Comparative Literature

$85.00 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-242-7

$34.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-244-1

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“[Millner] looks at how this type of ‘affective reading,’ which he argues predominates in our current media-saturated culture, has as much power to shape the public sphere as did the rational-critical reading promoted in the early American republic. . . . Recommended.”

An intricate account of how the early U.S. public sphere was shaped by debates over “good” and “bad” forms of reading, including pornographic reading, scandal reading, and religious reading

Drawing on a rich archive of scandal chronicles, pornography, medical journals, religious novels, and popular newspapers, as well as more canonical sources, Michael Millner examines the panics and paranoia associated with “bad reading” in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the Civil War. Weaving into his analysis a model of emotion recently developed in cognitive psychology, he provides the back-history to our present-day debates about “bad” reading and shows how these debates—both in the past and in the present—are in part about the shape of the public sphere itself.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“Lively and plausible, is Milner’s reflection on ‘de-emotionalizing embodiment’ in obscene print. His proposal that ‘the object of identification in celebrity worship is not a particular person but the public sphere itself’ is suggestive. . . . As researchers pull these claims into conversation with projects by scholars of reception such as it is, they are sure to enjoy the provocations Milner’s work offers.”
The Historian

“Millner examines the moral panic and paranoia associated with what was known as reading badly. Millner argues that considering emotional responses to texts, especially when using the new models for determining what emotion is and does, could change the way reading and readers are understood.”—American Literature to 1900

“Lucidly argued and elegantly written, Fever Reading makes a case for a public sphere of embodiment and emotion, what Millner occasionally calls “a public sensorium.” But rather than seeing this as an alternative to the realm of discursive communication and rational judgment, Millner sees embodiment as enabling precisely the kinds of critical practices—reflection, evaluation, judgment—that public sphere proponents embrace.”
Amerikastudien/American Studies

Fever Reading is a tremendously interesting and worthwhile book that brings timely interdisciplinary questions to long-standing discussions about democracy, the constitution of the public sphere, and developing norms of self-disciplining citizenship.”—Dana D. Nelson, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and American Studies, Vanderbilt University

“In Fever Reading, Millner uses the specifics of print culture to illuminate the more nebulous recesses of the public sphere just as he turns to institutional and material conditions of the public sphere to provide considerable insight into the varied modes of reading in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His argument is direct and assertive, as he suggests how bad readings—excessive attachment, impassioned absorption, and affective responses—exercise a certain virtue in preparing citizens for the stir and commotion of democratic public life.”—Russ Castronovo, Dorothy Draheim Professor of English and American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

MICHAEL MILLNER is an assistant professor of American studies and English at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:02:02 -0500