In 1500, as many as 99 out of 100 English women may have been illiterate, and girls of all social backgrounds were the objects of purposeful efforts to restrict their access to full literacy. Three centuries later, more than half of all English and Anglo-American women could read, and the female reader was emerging as a cultural ideal and a market force. While scholars have written extensively about women's reading in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and about women's writing in the early modern period, they have not attended sufficiently to the critical transformation that took place as female readers and their reading assumed significant cultural and economic power.
Reading Women brings into conversation the latest scholarship by early modernists and early Americanists on the role of gender in the production and consumption of texts during this expansion of female readership. Drawing together historians and literary scholars, the essays share a concern with local specificity and material culture. Removing women from the historically inaccurate frame of exclusively solitary, silent reading, the authors collectively return their subjects to the activities that so often coincided with reading: shopping, sewing, talking, writing, performing, and collecting. With chapters on samplers, storytelling, testimony, and translation, the volume expands notions of reading and literacy, and it insists upon a rich and varied narrative that crosses disciplinary boundaries and national borders.
Heidi Brayman Hackel is Associate Professor of English at University of California, Riverside and the author of Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy. Catherine E. Kelly is Associate Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma and author of In the New England Fashion: Reshaping Women's Lives in the Nineteenth Century.
List of Illustrations Introduction -Heidi Brayman Hackel and Catherine E. Kelly PART I. PLEASURES AND PROHIBITIONS Inventing the Early Modern Woman Reader through the World of Goods: Lyly's Gentlewoman Reader and Katherine Stubbes -Mary Ellen Lamb Engendering the Female Reader: Women's Recreational Reading of Shakespeare in Early Modern England -Sasha Roberts Crafting Subjectivities: Women, Reading and Self-Imagining -Mary Kelley PART II. PRACTICES AND ACCOMPLISHMENT 'you sow, Ile read': Letters and Literacies in Early Modern Samplers -Bianca F.-C. Calabresi The Female World of Classical Reading in Eighteenth-Century America -Caroline Winterer Reading and the Problem of Accomplishment -Catherine E. Kelly PART III. TRANSLATION AND AUTHORSHIP 'Who Painted the Lion?' Women and Novelle -Ian Frederick Moulton The Word Made Flesh: Reading Women and the Bible -Janice Knight 'With All Due Reverence and Respect to the Word of God': Aphra Behn as Skeptical Reader of the Bible and Critical Translator of Fontenelle -Margaret Ferguson Female Curiosities: The Transatlantic Female Commonplace Book -Susan M. Stabile Reading Outside the Frame -Robert A. Gross Notes on Contributors Acknowledgments Index