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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(224mm x 146mm x 32mm)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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UK Kirkus Review »
This is one of those rare history books that will change the way in which you think about the past. You might have imagined that the ordinary conversations, sayings, stories and songs of the majority of men, women and children in history would have been lost in the mists of time. Until relatively recently, most people could not write and much of what they said was never thought worthy of recording. But in this brilliantly imaginative and massively learned book Fox manages to bring the dim and distant voices back to life. In his pages you can hear sounds of the world which Shakespeare knew: the dialects, the proverbs, the jokes. You can eavesdrop on the gossip of the marketplace of Tudor and Stuart England, learn the bawdy songs chorused about the great and the good, or sit in on the evening firesides and listen to the legends and tales, ballads and nursery rhymes that were at the heart of popular culture. This is one of the most original, vivid and fascinating works of non-fiction that you will read in a long time and is surely destined to become a classic. (Kirkus UK)
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