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Andrea Reyes Elizondo MA

PhD candidate

E-mail: a.e.reyes.elizondo@cwts.leidenuniv.nl

Reading spaces: reconstructing the reading possibilities in a society

Universiteit Leiden
Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen
Promotor: Prof.dr. Paul Hoftijzer
Aanstelling: Vanaf 2015

Reading is a demanding cognitive activity realised in a specific context and which follows certain expectations. As a cultural and social practice closely connected to knowledge and power the activity has been studied from different perspectives—from the manners and forms of reading to its reciprocal influence with religion and politics.
Uncovering the readers from the past is a laborious—albeit rewarding—undertaking. Since the well-to-do have left plenty of sources, many studies have focused on these groups. In the last fifty years, researchers have unveiled the history of ordinary readers by using both primary and secondary sources. Understandably, both approaches leave out groups of which there are few-to-no direct documentary traces. This gap in the history of reading impedes outlining a more detailed place of the activity in a society as a whole.
My research project aims at reconstructing the reading possibilities—reading spaces—in a society by analysing the wider context of the activity for different groups. The methodology proposed goes beyond the basic divide of the literate and the illiterate by exploring the various conditions that can affect reading per social group.
This approach was developed during my research on the reading possibilities in seventeenth-century New Spain. My doctoral project will expand on it by applying it to four distinct places during the eighteenth century: the Dutch East Indies, the Netherlands, New Spain, and Spain. The contrast between the different contexts will allow me to refine my methodology as a tool for reading research and to provide further insights of the activity in these societies.