The guest editors of this special issue, James A. Knapp and Jeffrey Pence,contend that the current preoccupation with the materiality of things has usually generated a polarization between “history” and“theory” in literary criticism, whereby the work of scholars who continue to align themselves with the critical motives and methods of theory is dismissed for being un- or trans-historical. The primary goal of this essay is to suggest a middle way between these polarities, especially concerning recent scholarly interest in the history of the book. Specifically, this essay argues that Hans-Georg Gadamer's important contribution to the field of hermeneutics not only anticipates recent developments in textual scholarship,but also has much to offer scholars who are attempting to write the history of the material book. In such light, the so-called “turn toward history” commented upon at length in this issue does not require a concomitant turning away from theory. The essay begins with an examination of some important links between Gadamer's most significant assertions about the hermeneutic consciousness and comparably significant assertions about the study of the material book. Subsequently, this comparative analysis is applied to the discussion of a specific material book, the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare. From both of these contexts (general and specific), we can begin to see the necessity of a mutual engagement between“history” and “theory.”

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