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Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850
Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf

Human beings have developed a superabundance of ways of communicating with each other. Some, such as writing, are several millennia old. This book focuses on the relationship between speech and writing both within a single language, Welsh, and between two languages, Welsh and English. It demonstrates that the eighteenth-century Scottish clergy used the popular medium of Gaelic in oral and written form to advance the Gospel. The experience of literacy in early modern Wales was often an expression of legal and religious authority reinforced by the spoken word. This included the hearing of proclamations and other black-letter texts publicly read. Literate Protestant clergymen governed and shaped the Gaelic culture by acting as the bridge-builders between oral and literary traditions, and as arbiters of literary taste and the providers of reading material for newly literate people. The book also offers some illustrations of how anecdotes became social tools which used to make points not only in private correspondence but also in civil conversation in early modern England. Locating vagabonds and minstrels, and other wanderers on the margins of settled society depended on the survival of the appropriate historical record. Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. During the age of Enlightenment, intellectual culture nourished a new understanding of non-literate language and culture.

The origins of the concept in Enlightenment intellectual culture

6 Chapter 8 The spoken word Constructing oral tradition Constructing oral tradition: the origins of the concept in Enlightenment intellectual culture Nicholas Hudson [M]any circumstances of those times we call barbarous are favourable to the poetical spirit. That state, in which human nature shoots wild and free, though unfit for other improvements, certainly encourages the high exertions of fancy and passion . . . An American chief, at this day, harangues at the head of his tribe, in a more bold and metaphorical style, than a modern European would adventure

in The spoken word

political authority. In his example we can see how ideas worked in the period. Far from being detached intellectual exercises, the evidence of the composition, circulation and reception of his texts shows that ideas could have serious instrumental purchase in political life. One man and his pen – with the right support in powerful places – really could make a difference. Toland’s affinity with men like Eugene illustrates the role his ideas played in the elite circles of early eighteenth-century European politics. It also indicates how receptive political and intellectual

in Republican learning

-European bourgeois feminism. This animates her discussion of how Jane Eyre’s conceptions of European female individualism are predicated on and perpetuate the subordination of non-European women. Said works towards a humanistic politics and a contrapuntal intellectual culture that, for him, will provide progress beyond the contemporary deadlock of imperialism and nationalism. While all three thinkers perceive imperialism as a matrix of domestic culture and consciousness, their definitions of imperialism itself differ. Said’s derive from the notion of geo-political domination. His

in Postcolonial contraventions
Open Access (free)
Soviet things that talk

The introduction surveys the approaches of material culture and objects starting from the 1920s avant-garde and ending with recent critical inquiries. It situates the book’s subject in relation to the avant-garde both as a historical precedent and a theoretical framework, reinvigorated by the recent material turn. It explains that the concern for things was at the forefront of Soviet designers’ professional ambitions and attitudes towards the socialist system, and, therefore, things can say a lot about late Soviet professional and intellectual culture. The introduction then proceeds to outline the story of Soviet design activities and institutions between the state’s repudiation of the avant-garde and the death of Stalin in 1953. Further, the introduction describes the methodology and sources of the book: how different materials are approached and brought together. And, finally, it critically engages with the key terms – ‘avant-garde’, ‘material culture’, ‘design’, ‘decorative art’ – and outlines the content of the following chapters.

in Comradely objects
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Precedents to sustainability in nineteenth-century literature and culture

This essay argues for a more historicised conception of sustainability that transcends contemporary preoccupations (e.g. with climate change) in constituting part of modernity’s long counter-tradition. It is suggested that proto-ecological discourses of sustainability emerged from the formulation of the concept of ‘environment’ (milieu) in nineteenth-century European intellectual culture before being articulated in literary works informed by that tradition. The essay looks at William Morris’ News from Nowhere (1890) and, in detail, at Emile Zola’s La Terre (1887). Zola’s novel is imbued with the ambiance (Leo Spitzer) of an environment coloured by the struggle of reconciling human, social, and economic needs with the earth. Sharing contemporary preoccupations – the possibilities and perils of technology, global capitalism, human folly – Zola concluded that human sustenance compels careful, productive action in environments we must ‘cultivate […] in order not to starve’. Far from offering a template for the ‘stationary state’, Zola recognised, as should we, that sustainability is a dialectical, contingent, ongoing project.

in Literature and sustainability
Libraries, friends and conversation

the others that Toland haunted) was a material manifestation of the intellectual culture of the republic of letters. Making such libraries involved both economic and intellectual transactions. The purchase, selection and circulation of books brought men together creating networks of communication and cultural power. The example of Collins indicates that his pursuit of titles led him into a series of relationships with a variety of people and places. He had met Locke in Churchill’s bookshop. He had also used the same London bookshop (Christopher Bateman’s in

in Republican learning
Open Access (free)
The predicament of history

négritude are significant in this respect. So too, as Mary Chamberlain establishes, was George Lamming’s entry in the middle 1950s into the Parisian intellectual milieu which brought together Sartrean phenomenology and négritude – from which so much contemporary thinking on ‘the fact of blackness’ has subsequently derived. Insofar as French philosophy touched the intellectual culture of the British in

in West Indian intellectuals in Britain

), set out with the bold aim of transforming the intellectual culture of Britain, which they viewed as a pre-requisite of any real socialist advance, by introducing and applying Marxist thought drawn mainly from continental Europe. The Nairn–Anderson theses thus represented an ambitious attempt to pioneer a distinctive analysis of British capitalist development, its state, society and class structure. Despite a number of shortcomings, some justly identified by E. P. Thompson in his excoriating and famous 1965 attack, what was distinctive and valuable about the Nairn

in Interpreting the Labour Party

education’ itself. I will not engage with these critiques directly, nor will I  address the question of trigger warnings in a full and systematic manner (trigger warnings are rather remote from the pedagogic scene in which I  have been taught to teach).3 What has interested me is how these critiques have created a general impression: positing a hurt, traumatised or hypersensitive student against the rigorous demands of intellectual culture. The figure of the too-​easily-​hurt student is familiar to anyone coming out of Women’s Studies: indeed many of the charges against

in The power of vulnerability