Amongst the medieval literate elite, there were two major methods of reading: monastic and scholastic, each divided into three ‘levels’. Monastic reading consisted of lectio / meditatio / contemplatio – that is: reading / meditation / contemplation. This method was primarily concerned with memorisation and enlightenment through repetition and deep reading (contemplation). To read this way was to know by memory and intimately understand a very few books in their entirety.
Monastic reading was popular in the early Middle Ages (through the 12th century) and, as the name suggests, practiced extensively in monastic communities (male and female alike).
Scholastic reading appears in the 13th century and proliferates in universities, growing in popularity throughout the late Middle Ages. It comprised of legere / disputare / praedicare, or: reading / discussing / presenting. The emphasis here was on a person’s capacity to read widely and to be able to pull choice quotes from important to use in intellectual debates (disputatio) or lectures.