Dr Elspeth Jajdelska
Tel : +44 (0)141 548 3517 (Ext. 3517)
I studied English language and literature at Glasgow University and completed a PhD on seventeenth-century diaries at Leeds University in 1996. Then I worked as a fund manager for an Edinburgh firm for three years, before spending a year and a half at the Jagiellonian and Pedagogical Universities in Krakow, Poland. I came to Strathclyde in 2001.
- Impertinent Writers and Imagined Readers. Monograph, 95 000 words, under review.
- '"Obnoxious preoccupation with sex organs": the ethics and aesthetics of representing sex', chapter in edited volume on Nabokov and Ethics, under review.
- Article on Scottish labouring class poetry and the Cambuslang revival of 1743. Work in progress.
- Article on verbal art and perceptual simulation. Work in progress.
- Group for Renaissance Research Reading
Argondizza, Peter (Academic) Fudge, Erica (Academic) Hope, Jonathan (Academic) Jajdelska, Elspeth (Academic) Thorne, Alison (Academic) Hogarth, Alan (Academic) Clark, Douglas Iain (Academic) Veerapen, Steven Alexander (Academic) Froehlich, Heather Gayle (Academic)Period 10-Jan-2011
- CW and SLA - Creative writing as a tool in second language acquisition (FP7 MC IRSES)
Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)Period 01-Jan-2009 - 31-Dec-2011
- Helping young readers with comprehension problems
Ellis, Susan (Principal Investigator) Jajdelska, Elspeth (Principal Investigator)Period 01-May-2007 - 24-Mar-2009
Impertinent Writers and Imagined Readers, 1600-1750
The history of reading has expanded rapidly since its inauguration by Chartier, Darnton and others in the early 1990s. Renaissance scholars are increasingly interested in the relationship between printed or manuscript texts and oral performances, in the editorial issues surrounding play texts, for example, and in relation to sermons and other rhetorical performances. Eighteenth-century scholars are delving ever further into the print culture associated with a growing market for material texts and a population with rising literacy and disposable income. But there is nervousness about connecting these findings into a narrative or even chronology, as historians of reading are sensitive to the dangers of teleology and ‘from…to’ narratives. The field is also hampered by the lack of a satisfactory theoretical framework in which to relate speech to writing. Many scholars continue to rely on Walter Ong’s account of orality and literacy, in which the second slowly displaces the first. There are scholars who question this model but they do not usually suggest an alternative.
Impertinent Writers and Imagined Readers addresses these problems and limitations. Instead of putting printed and written texts in a framework of ‘orality versus literacy’, I borrow from the work of the renowned folklorist Richard Bauman and anthropologist Karin Barber. Their definition of ‘texts’ is rooted in oral performance, while ‘entextualisation’ is the adaptation of reified texts in a new setting. Instead of focussing on the text as material object I consider what readers and writers at different points in the period believed writing and print to represent in relation to speech, as well as the way hierarchical restrictions on speech affected the reception of writing. Where most scholars of speech and hierarchy have focussed on the way rules for spoken propriety were evaded or breached, I discuss the surprising longevity and routine observation of these rules, and especially of the rule discouraging speech to superiors without invitation. A major change in the beliefs about and attitudes towards the relationship between speech and writing in the early eighteenth century can be discussed without the risks associated with ‘shift’ narratives by using a social scientific account of norm change.
I start from a hypothesis that renaissance readers treated written and printed documents as either representations of past speech or scripts for future speech. Living in small urban populations by the standards of the present day, authors were vulnerable to ridicule by the oral readings of their peers, who could make the text seem absurd by misplaced emphasis. In the later seventeenth century readers were more likely to treat books as proxies for the author’s speech than representations of it. Books were evaluated by measuring the propriety of the spoken performance which lay behind the proxy. Spoken decorum, and particularly a prohibition on uninvited speech to superiors, meant that publishing in genres proper to elites was innately indecorous. The status of book as proxy also meant that paratexts could be used to reconstruct an appropriate social setting for a printed work. At the start of the eighteenth century a change in the way language was understood combined with increasingly open social networks so that printed texts were no longer considered to be proxies or representations of speech, but utterances in their own right and they were freed from spoken decorum. This apparently levelling change did not mean that readers considered themselves to belong to an imagined community of readers that eroded the barriers between ranks. But readers from the lower ranks could for the first time legitimately engage in the gentlemanly criticism which had once been the reserve of the superiors.