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Title:Privacy and print: Reading and writing in seventeenth century England
Author(s):Jagodzinski, Cecile Marie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Guibbory, Achsah
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, English
Abstract:This study proposes that the emergence of the concept of privacy as a personal right, as the very core of individuality, is connected in a complex fashion with the history of reading. Amid the religious, political, and technological changes of seventeenth-century England, the printed book became the site for authors' and readers' negotiations between public and private life; the printing press simultaneously encouraged public revelation even as it created opportunities for solitary contact with the text. As it attempts to recover the experience of readers of the past, the study examines reading and writing in five genres: devotional books, conversion narratives, personal letters, drama, and the novel. Devotional books became the instrument of private spirituality for Catholics, Anglicans, and radical Protestants alike, as religious repression of various sects and their public religious practices cast the responsibility for the exercise of belief upon the lone individual. Conversion narratives of the seventeenth-century provide, not only a brief history of a genre in evolution, but a partial answer to questions about the development of the literary canon; the woman-centered, private histories of female converts foreshadow the novel, while the public proclamations of preacher-missionaries such as John Bunyan lie at the roots of male-dominated "serious" literature. The published letters of Charles I and John Donne reflect authors' and publishers' new concerns about the relation of the new medium of print to the individual, a concern verbalized in terms of the integrity of the human body. Women's ambiguous roles in print culture are represented by the literary activities of Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn. While Cavendish exploits her position as noblewoman and royalist exile to praise the virtues of the contemplative life, she also insists on publication as a fitting proof of virtue for male and female authors alike. Behn, whose detractors used her writing for hire as evidence of her moral and sexual wantonness, created, in Love-Letters from a Nobleman to His Sister, a female heroine who acts as an apt image of the concealed private self and of the relations between authors, readers, and their books.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Jagodzinski, Cecile Marie
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702547
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702547

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