Essays in Honour of Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser
Edited By Simon Rosenberg and Sandra Simon
Class-Related Aspects of Reading in Victorian Autobiographies: Molly Hughes, A London Child of the 1870s, and Hannah Mitchell, The Hard Way Up
Uta Schleiermacher, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster
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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