Reading and writing from below: Toward a new social history of literacy in the Nordic sphere during the long nineteenth century

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description (abstract)

This interdisciplinary project seeks to contribute to the study of the social history of literacy in the Nordic countries, focusing on the roles played by the written word in the everyday lives of ordinary people during “the long nineteenth century” (roughly from the French Revolution to the First World War). By “literacy” is meant not just the ability to read and write but rather the totality of the processes and practices involved in the production, dissemination and reception of written texts, while the perspective “from below” indicates that the focus is on non-privileged people, their experiences and points of view.

Studying the literacy practices of ordinary people, i.e. those with little or no formal education from the lower strata of society, will necessarily challenge traditional dichotomies such as manuscript vs. print, oral vs. written and centre vs. periphery. This “from below” perspective also challenges the ways in which the processes of literacy education, acquisition and appropriation have previously been understood, and will thus call for a revision of Nordic cultural and social history. The project will attend to aspects which have hitherto been largely marginalised in relation to official culture, focusing on texts written and read by self-educated people.
Effective start/end date01/01/201131/07/2014