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Civility, Cultural Exchange, and Conduct Literature in Early Modern England, 1500-1800
Project responsable Indira Ghose
   
Project partner Emma Depledge
   
Abstract Manners and norms of good conduct, once seen as trivial aspects of social life, are now regarded by cultural historians as having had a profound impact on modern identity. While the codification of manners is to be found in all cultures and at all historical periods, the genre of conduct literature was particularly influential in Europe between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. It encompasses a range of texts such as treatises of the court, parental advice books, guides to conversation, devotional writings, and periodical essays, and advises its readers about ideal social behaviour. Valuable scholarship has been produced about the history of manners, about how conduct literature contributes to constructions of masculinity and femininity and to the intersection of gender with class, and about the way norms of civility have affected nationalist discourses. What has not been sufficiently explored is the interconnected role played by material and cultural aspects of these texts. This project will focus on the interaction between the production and reception of conduct books in early modern England (1500 to 1800). Our interest lies in the dissemination of ideas as well as the materiality of the texts and the way the genre was marketed. Drawing on scholarship in intellectual history and the history of the book, we aim to explore a range of questions. How were notions about good conduct from early modern Italy and France appropriated and assimilated into English society? How were these ideas reshaped in the English context, and how did they interact with discourses of gender, class, and nation? What changes did translators introduce into the English versions of the texts? How were these texts adapted to the English print market? What modifications were inserted by publishers, and what paratextual and other marketing strategies were deployed to tailor the appeal of these texts to potential readers? What conclusions can we draw from records of publication, pricing data, the binding of texts, inventories, auction catalogues, and lists of subscribers? Are there readerly annotations in extant copies that will provide further insight into how these books were received?
To gain answers to these questions, we will produce an open-access database of conduct books published in England from 1500 to 1800, using a range of online resources and extant material collections. This database will enable us to investigate the patterns of translation, publication, marketing and commercial reception of English conduct books. Furthermore, as a test case, a selection of ca. 15 texts translated from French into English and vice versa, many of them produced by Swiss publishing houses, will be carefully collated. These texts will be taken from the corpus of conduct books addressed to, and often produced by, women. Drawing on findings from the database of English conduct literature from 1500 to 1800, the project will result in two monograph, a doctoral thesis, and a number of peer-reviewed articles. The goal of the project is to create a fund of research and produce a valuable resource for future scholarship in this field.
   
Keywords Civility, Cultural Exchange, Manners, Conduct Literature, Translation, Gender, Book History, Digital Humanities
   
Type of project Fundamental research project
Research area german and English languages and literature
Method of financing FNS Project Funding
Status Ongoing
Start of project 1-9-2019
End of project 31-8-2023
Overall budget 766'955
Additional info This project runs in collaboration with UniFr and will transfer to UniNe in August 2021
Contact Emma Depledge