F.R. Leavis dictated a 'canon' of the best literature which was worthy of study, and argument continues about what should be included.
This course poses a question which is less often asked:
What kind of intellectual life did working and middle class people in Britain really have? What did they actually enjoy reading?
This course will look at what people read, how they educated themselves, and what they knew. Through the development of the book trade, newspapers, libraries and self-education, the mass of the people forged their own intellectual culture and literary world.
Some major themes this course will cover:
The rise of literacy, and its uses and meanings.
The rise of newspapers.
The book trade, and what people wanted to read.
Reading penny dreadfuls and 'high class' newspapers.
Local voices: Lancashire and North West writers, and their importance to a regional mass audience.
The tradition of the autodidact, and the use of commercial libraries, public libraries and reading rooms.
How, and why, working people attended lectures, debating societies, and wrote their own poetry.
The beginnings of state education.