The Woman Reader: Belinda Jack on Reading Practices Across Cultures and Centuries
Thursday, 13 September 2012
Blenheim Palace Literary Festival, Woodstock, 12 noon
Women’s reading has been a cause of controversy across the ages, with many men fearing it would lead women to neglect their duties and even that it would make them sexually licentious. Belinda Jack, author of The Woman Reader, explains how despite this, there were always men and women who promoted women’s literacy and were often prepared to face considerable risk to do so. Jack introduces us to a series of women with a passion for reading and books – from a Babylonian princess to New England mill girls. She also explores modern reading trends among men and women and censorship on reading in countries such as Iran.
Time: 12 noon
Venue: Methodist Church, Woodstock
Tickets: £10. Visit the official event page to book
Jack traces a history marked by persistent efforts to prevent women from gaining literacy and to censor their reading. She also recounts the counterefforts of remarkable women - and some men - who have fought back and battled for the educational enfranchisement of girls. The book introduces dissatisfied female readers of many different eras - ancient poetesses disappointed by the limitations of male poets, Babylonian princesses calling for women's voices to be heard, rebellious nuns who wanted to share their writings with others, confidantes questioning Reformation theologians about their writings, famous and infamous wives whose reading provoked their husbands, and nineteenth-century New England mill girls who risked their jobs to smuggle novels into the workplace.
Today, a new set of distinctions between male and female readers has emerged, and Jack explores such contemporary topics as the commitment of mothers vs. fathers to children's literacy, women's vocal demands for censorship in school libraries, and the impact of women readers in their new status as the prime movers in the world of reading.