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" Improved And Enlightened By Reading": A Provincial Enlightenment?

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Chapter Summary

Robert Darnton suggests that historical reading is &t;both familiar and foreign, it is an activity that we share with our ancestors yet that never can be the same as what they experienced&t;. The conventional 'great men' approach to intellectual history thus depends on &t;the illusion of stepping outside of time in order to make contact with authors who lived centuries ago&t;, without recognising that our responses to them &t;cannot be the same as that of readers in the past&t;. The experiences of provincial readers tell a great deal about what the Scottish Enlightenment was, who was involved in it and how far it extended, to paraphrase George Elder Davie, beyond the drawing rooms of New Town Edinburgh. The Scottish reading practices investigated inform scholarly understanding of reading and readers more generally in the eighteenth century.

Keywords: George Elder Davie; Robert Darnton; Scottish Enlightenment



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