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The Idea of the Book and the Creation of Literature

Stephen Orgel

Publication Date - February 2023

ISBN: 9780192871589

224 pages
8.0 x 5.3 inches

In Stock


The Idea of the Book and the Creation of Literature explores the intersection of literary history and the history of the book. For several millennia, books have been the material embodiment of knowledge and culture, and an essential embodiment for any kind of knowledge involving texts. Texts, however, do not need to be books-they are not even necessarily written. The oldest poems were composed to be recited, and only written down centuries later. Much of the most famous poetry of the English Renaissance was composed in manuscript form to circulate among a small social circle. Plays began as scripts for performance. What happens to a play when it becomes a book, or to a collection of poems circulated among friends when it becomes a volume of sonnets? How do essays, plays, poems, stories, become Works? How is an author imagined? In this new addition to the Oxford Textual Perspectives series, Stephen Orgel addresses such questions and considers the idea of the book not simply as a container for written work, but as an essential element in its creation.


  • A new addition to the Oxford Textual Perspectives series
  • Raises fundamental questions about the relationship between literature and book history by considering a range of canonical texts
  • Orgel strives to demonstrate that readers play a powerful and dynamic role in the production of meaning in even the most authoritative texts

About the Author(s)

Stephen Orgel, J. E. Reynolds Professor in Humanities, Stanford University

Stephen Orgel is J. E. Reynolds Professor in Humanities at Stanford University.

Table of Contents

    List of Illustrations
    1. Introduction
    2. Some Plays
    3. Some Works
    4. Poetry and Drama
    5. How to be a Poet
    6. What is a Book?