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Material Moments in Book Cultures

Essays in Honour of Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser

Edited By Simon Rosenberg and Sandra Simon

This Festschrift honours the dedicated book historian and medievalist Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser. Her wide-ranging scholarly expertise has encouraged and influenced many adepts of the book. The essays in this volume reflect the variety of her interests: The contributions range from Chaucer’s Fürstenspiegel to the value of books in comedy, from the material book to the magical book in religious and literary cultures, from collaborative efforts in manuscript production to the relations of distributors of books across national and ideological boundaries, from the relations between the makers of books to the relation of readers to their books. Covering a period from the Middle Ages to the present, the volume concludes with a look at the future of book history as a field of study.
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Class-Related Aspects of Reading in Victorian Autobiographies: Molly Hughes, A London Child of the 1870s, and Hannah Mitchell, The Hard Way Up

Extract

Uta Schleiermacher, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster

Abstract

Reading plays an important role in Victorian autobiographies, but it has different functions for those who write them. The examples of the autobiographers Molly Hughes and Hannah Mitchell show that social position and status affect the description of reading habits and single reading experiences.

The autobiographies A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes1 and The Hard Way Up by Hannah Mitchell2 cover the mid- and late Victorian period from the 1870s onwards. Both women wrote their autobiographies at the age of about seventy. While they present themselves as ‘ordinary’ women of that time, the two texts are quite different in scope and refer to very different social realities. Molly Hughes has a middle-class background and Hannah Mitchell is a representative of the working class. In their autobiographies, literature is an essential issue and many situations are related to reading. The objective of this study is to describe different aspects of reading in the two autobiographies and to analyse how and in which context reading experiences are presented. The underlying question is in how far the description, presentation and evaluation of reading situations are related to aspects of social position and class of the autobiographers.

In analysing the descriptions of reading situations in the autobiographies, reading material, age of reading, place, time and mode of reading, motivation and intention of reading as well as the effect of reading are taken into account....

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