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Title: Unearthing the English common reader : working class reading habits, England 1850-1914
Author: Gerrard, Teresa A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2675 1398
Awarding Body: University of Luton
Current Institution: University of Bedfordshire
Date of Award: 2004
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This thesis uses a number of sources to piece together evidence of working-class reading habits during the period 1850 to 1914: autobiographies, library borrowing records, middle-class contemporary observations, and answers to correspondents pages in popular periodicals. Middle-class dominance of literary production through the publishing industry, librarians, editors, and book reviews helped to shape working class autobiographical representations of reading. Literary conventions of autobiographies limit them as a source. By portraying the authors' life as a success story the genre puts greater emphasis on the reading of accepted classics and canonical works. Studies of two early libraries show how notions of class and gender affected the provision of texts in libraries. Later records prove that reading for leisure purposes had increased dramatically over the period from 1850 to 1914 and that juvenile literature was popular even with adult readers. Changes in the publishing industry and the popularity of genres are reflected in the library stock. An alternative source confirms these trends. The answers to correspondence pages of the London Journal, Reynolds' Newspaper and the Family Herald reveal that a number of common readers wanted to read in order to better themselves socially and intellectually. A popularised version of autodidact culture was both promoted and sought in the pages of popular periodicals. The thesis concludes that two distinct trends in reading are evident through the period: reading for self-improvement subtly shaped by autodidact culture, and an increase in leisure reading
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literarature ; Reading habits ; Working class education