Literary Production and Audience

  • Janette Dillon
Chapter
Part of the Writers in their Time book series (WRTI)

Abstract

Possibly the single most important distinction between the conditions of production for writers before and after the late fifteenth century is the distinction between manuscript and print. In Chaucer’s time all writing of any kind was copied in manuscript, and this had important consequences for the nature of the text as well as for the nature and expectations of the audience. Most obviously, the copying of manuscripts was slow and laborious and inevitably meant that the number of copies produced, compared with print runs, was small. On the other hand, the practice of reading aloud manuscript works to a group of people meant that the audience was certainly much wider than the number of manuscripts produced, so that it is impossible to establish with any certainty the size of audience for a given text.

Keywords

Stratification Expense Arena Doyle Rounde 

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Notes

  1. 6.
    See Graham Pollard, ‘The Company of Stationers before 1557’, The Library, 4th ser., vol. 18 (1938) pp. 1–38, and M. B. Parkes, ‘The Literacy of the Laity’, in The Medieval World, ed. David Daiches and Anthony Thorlby (London: Aldus Books, 1973) p. 564.Google Scholar
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    Further discussion of Chaucer’s interest in the role of the audience in constructing the meaning of the text can be found in Janette Dillon, ‘Chaucer’s Game in the Pardoner’s Tale’, Essays in Criticism, vol. 41 (1991) pp. 208–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Janette Dillon 1993

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  • Janette Dillon

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