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The Society of the Book

The Society of the Book

(p.139) Chapter Five The Society of the Book
University of Chicago Press

Martial's appeal to an anonymous “reader” (lector) is the beginning of a long history of the writer's relation to an unknown public, but the lector is only one component of Martial's imagined readership. Martial's readers are made aware of the others with whom they share the book, and this virtual society produces shifting relations between different interests, statuses, and reading practices. Contrasting with the enthusiastic lector are the patrons who have no time to read frivolities, or who write poetry rather than read it. Sometimes we are to think of the unknown lector as the true imagined reader of a book in which occasional epigrams have been removed from their specific context and raised to the status of the universal. At other times, the lector is just a voyeur who was not there for the real thing. To read Martial, then, is to enter the society of the book. Martial describes two kinds of relations with his readers: the long-term social relations of patronage and the commercial transaction that required no personal contact between author and reader.

Keywords:   Martial, epigrams, lector, public, readers, readership, patronage, social relations, commercial transaction

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