About This Publication
Many who learned and used writing before state education was introduced had practices and purposes in common, including a consciousness of the social nature of learning and literacy, and the sense that writing skills are a powerful asset enabling the exercise of human agency.
Howard addresses questions which lie at the heart of much literacy scholarship: why was working-class literacy so central to 19th century beliefs, myths and fears and to literary expression and cultural conflict as well as political reform? How was it that informal learning, while not a universal pursuit, accounted for dramatic rises in literacy skills? If writing enabled people to change their lives, what was happening to those who could not write? Is writing fundamental to empowerment and self-realisation, for individual women and men, for communities and social movements? If so, when and in which circumstances did this become the case?
"Ursula Howard’s enquiry into nineteenth-century working-class autobiography is an illuminating read, firmly rooted in questions that still burn strongly for adult educators today. The book makes a significant contribution to literacy studies – it is about writing, which is often ignored or subsumed under reading in policy and practice. Most importantly it is about the ‘unbidden’ literacy practices of working class autobiography in an age where writing was not expected of ‘ordinary people’. Howard asks: why did writing matter so much to these authors that they went against the grain to record their thoughts and experiences? How did they do it and at what cost?
This is a carefully and engagingly written book to read end to end. It is structured to take us through the broad social and political context of literacy in the nineteenth century, to the more local context of the community and social relationships within which individual working-class autobiographies were produced."
Mary Hamilton, Professor of Adult Learning and Literacy, Lancaster University
About the author
Ursula Howard is a Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London. With more than 30 years’ experience in teaching, organising and researching adult literacy, she is a former Director of Research at the Learning and Skills Development Agency and a former Director of the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC).
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Part 1. Powerful literacies: state, culture and society
Chapter 1: Teaching and learning writing
Chapter 2: Literacy and literature, culture and class
Part 2: Learning and letters: writing practices in the community
Chapter 3: Audodidacts or mutual learners? Writing, association and the self
Chapter 4: Letters and letter-writing: meaning deeper than the mere exchange of information?
Part 3. Writing lives, different selves
Chapter 5: Telling the truth, fact, memory and special pleading
Chapter 6: Cracked bobbins and showers of frogs: connections in creativity
Chapter 7: Being different: women's lives in writing
Chapter 8: Moving through material worlds: men’s lives in writing