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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Literacy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 778. Saturday, 13 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Ron Strickland <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Nov 1993 10:08:31 +22306512 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: 4.SHK 0762  Q: Literacy
 
(2)     From:   Lyn Tribble <ETRIB@TEMPLEVM>
        Date:   Friday, 12 Nov 93 09:26:48 EST
        Subj:   Literacy
 
(3)     From:   Nancy W Miller <
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        Date:   Friday, 12 Nov 93 13:50:43 EST
        Subj:   Re: 4.SHK 0762  Q: Literacy
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Strickland <
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Date:           Friday, 12 Nov 1993 10:08:31 +22306512 (CST)
Subject: 0762  Q: Literacy
Comment:        Re: 4.SHK 0762  Q: Literacy
 
I don't think anyone has mentioned Laura C. Stevensen's _Praise and Paradox:
Merchants and Craftsmen in Elizabethan Popular Literature_ as a source for
information on women's literacy in the seventeenth century.  She's concerned
mainly with the late sixteenth century, but in the third chapter she has
a useful discussion of literacy, including women's literacy.  She argues
that many more men and women could read than could write, so that Cressy's
estimates based on signatures in church records, etc. may actually under-
estimate literacy rates.
--
Ron Strickland
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lyn Tribble <ETRIB@TEMPLEVM>
Date:           Friday, 12 Nov 93 09:26:48 EST
Subject:        Literacy
 
When considering issues of literacy in early modern England, it's important
to be clear about what you're studying.  Cressy has done a great deal of
archival work to determine what percentage of people could sign their names
to legal documents of various sorts.  While useful, this study provides a
very partial view of "literacy" (as Cressy himself acknowledges).  Reading
and writing were separately learned skills in this period; reading was
often taught in unschooled settings, while writing was usually taught later
and in formal settings (generally to boys, not girls).  Knowing whether
someone could sign his or her name tells us very little about reading
ability; thus, literacy statistics of this sort will give a distorted view
of reading abilities, particularly among women.
 
Keith Thomas has argued, I think persuasively, that we should think of
"literacies" rather than "literacy" in this period.  His article on
"The Meaning of Literacy in Early Modern England," in *The Written
Word: Literacy in Transition* (London: Clarendon Press, 1986)  is
essential reading.  He doesn't provide many answers, but he is very
helpful on ways of evaluating evidence.
 
Lyn Tribble / Dept. of English / Temple U / etrib@templevm
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nancy W Miller <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 12 Nov 93 13:50:43 EST
Subject: 0762  Q: Literacy
Comment:        Re: 4.SHK 0762  Q: Literacy
 
> In our grad seminar on Feminism, Materialism and the Renaissance we have been
> discussing literacy rates among women in the 16th and 17th centuries with
> obvious questions about class.  Aside form David Cressy's (sp?) book--does
> anyone know of recent scholarship in this area?  We are having trouble
> tracking down a good source to help us address these issues.
 
You may want to take a look at Suzanne C. Hull's book, *Chaste, Silent, and
Obedient* (Huntington Library, 1983), which is a catalogue of books for women.
Her project is aimed at rethinking women's literacy rates in early modern
England and questioning whether the ability to write (or sign a document) is an
adequate criterion for being considered "literate."
 

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