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Book launch: Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Wednesday 17 March 2021, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Chloe Wigston Smith (University of York) and Serena Dyer (De Montfort University, Leicester)

Serena Dyer and Chloe Wigston Smith will open this research seminar by discussing together the concept of "material literacy" and how it figured across eighteenth-century consumer and maker cultures. They will then each present short research papers that engage material literacy in the period.

Serena Dyer “Makers and Consumers”

For the eighteenth-century consumer, learning to shop incorporated learning to make. This paper explores the cooperative nature of manual labour and consumer practice in order to illuminate the creativity which fuelled consumer cultures. Diverse modes of making, from watercolours and paper dolls, to the construction of full-sized garments, were within the remit of the middling-sort woman consumer. Consumer skill, this paper argues, extended beyond browsing and bargaining to a more holistic understanding of how material goods were made.

Chloe Wigston Smith, "Women and Craft"

This paper considers craft as a feminist project in the eighteenth century by examining the life of Hannah Roberston, expert maker and teacher. Robertson's life story, which she detailed in her autobiography, uncovers how craft could function as an imaginative escape and just as importantly, a path towards financial independence for women. Robertson understood maker's knowledge as an invaluable creative and economic resource and this paper follows her lead to examine how her writing and her teaching yield insights into women's material literacy and craft communities in the eighteenth century.

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Image: Cover for Material Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: A Nation of Makers ed. Serena Dyer and Chloe Wigston Smith (Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020)

Location: Zoom