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Title: The talk of the town : oral communication and networks of information in sixteenth-century St. Gallen
Author: Roth, Carla
ISNI:       0000 0004 6497 6416
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores oral communication in St. Gallen through the lens of the linen merchant Johannes Rütiner (1501-1556/7). By reconstructing Rütiner's network of informants and probing four genres of communication within their respective social contexts - jokes, gossip, rumour, and memory narratives -, it explores early modern sociability, the circulation of information, and the relationship between oral testimony, manuscript, and print. Sixteenth-century St. Gallers relied heavily on informal, oral networks to provide them with news and information of all kinds. An individual's access to information was thus to a large degree determined by the social networks within which they spent their life. As St. Gallers sought to secure a place for themselves in such circles, they in turn used jokes, gossip, and information of all kinds as a form of "communicative social capital", allowing them to present themselves as witty, well-connected, and knowledgeable. Rather than treating the instability of oral narratives as evidence of the inherent unreliability of the spoken word, this study proposes to analyse their evolution as a key to early modern mentalities. It also calls into question some of the dominant narratives regarding the printing revolution. Not only did oral communication continue to play a central role in the dissemination of information in the first half of the sixteenth century, but existing systems of "source criticism", developed in the context of dominantly oral networks, moreover cast doubt on the reliability of anonymous prints: because they made their trust in a piece of news conditional on their trust in the messenger, Rütiner and his fellow citizens often preferred oral narratives provided by familiar, trustworthy informants.
Supervisor: Roper, Lyndal Sponsor: Clarendon Fund ; German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) ; German Historical Institute London (GHIL) ; Charterhouse European Bursary
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early Modern History ; Switzerland ; News ; Communication ; Orality ; Gossip ; Networks ; Rumour ; Humour