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Ethics Colloquium - Curry Kennedy

Literacy Education and Ethical Maturation in Early Modern England
by Betsy VanNoy Feb 20, 2020
When Mar 05, 2020
from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Where 133 Sparks
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Ethics Colloquia Series Spring 2020

Literacy Education and Ethical Maturation in Early Modern England (ca. 1500-1660)

Curry Kennedy

PhD Candidate, English
Rock Ethics Institute Graduate Fellow

March 5, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
133 Sparks

Abstract: Various scholars have described the historical development of the Literacy Myth, the idea that learning to read has been the sole driver of economic and social uplift for the masses over the course of Western history. In my talk, I historicize one facet of the Literacy Myth by tracing a potential source of the association between reading and spiritual/ethical growth. Beginning in 1550, Early Modern English children were taught to read using the same catechism they used to prepare for confirmation in the Church of England. I argue that the entanglement of the notions of personal ethical empowerment in confirmation and of literacy acquisition in primary education helped create a reading public whose interpretive habits were highly disciplined but potentially revolutionary. The paradoxical model of the good reader inculcated by confirmation and education contained within itself the resources to limit ethical agency into approved channels and/or unleash it from external authority.