Oral and Literate Culture in England, 1500-1700

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Clarendon Press, Nov 9, 2000 - History - 512 pages
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This book explores the varied vernacular forms and rich oral traditions which were such a part of popular culture in early modern England. It focuses, in particular, upon dialect speech and proverbial wisdom, "old wives' tales" and children's lore, historical legends and local customs, scurrilous versifying and scandalous rumour-mongering. Adam Fox argues that while the spoken word provides the most vivid insight into the mental world of the majority in this semi-literate society, it was by no means untouched by written influences. Even at the beginning of the period, centuries of reciprocal infusion between complementary media had created a cultural repertoire which had long ceased to be purely oral. Thereafter, the expansion of literacy together with the proliferation of texts both in manuscript and print saw the rapid acceleration and elaboration of this process. By 1700 popular traditions and modes of expression were the product of a fundamentally literate environment to a much greater extent than has yet been appreciated.
 

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Contents

Popular Speech
51
Proverbial Wisdom
112
Old Wives Tales and Nursery Lore
173
The Historical Imagination
213
Local Custom Memory and Record
259
I
299
Rumour and News
335
Conclusion
406
BIBLIOGRAPHY
414
INDEX
459
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