in reading had long ceased to have a hold on the public. Readers didnot read whatever was recommended to them by the authorities and theideologues, but whatever satisfied their intellectual, social and privateneeds. The genie had irretrievably escaped from the bottle.;New Readers in theNineteenth Century:Women, Children, workersMartyn LyonsIn the nineteenth century, the reading public of the Western worldachieved mass literacy. The advances made towards general literacyin the age of Enlightenment were continued, to create a rapidlyexpanding number of new readers, especially for newspapers and cheapfiction. In revolutionary France, about half the male population couldread, and about 30 per cent of women.' In Britain, where literacy rateswere higher, male literacy was about 70 per cent in 1850, and 55 percent of females could read.2 The German Reich was 88 per cent literatein 187L3These figures hide considerable variations between town and country,and between the highly literate capital cities and the rest of the country.In Paris, for example, on the eve of the French Revolution, 90 per centof men and 80 per cent of women were able to sign their wills; and in1792, two out of three inhabitants of the popular faubourg St Marcelcould read and write." Such high levels of literacy, however, were foundonly in the largest western European cities before the mid-nineteenthcentury. Nevertheless by the 1890s, 90 per cent literacy had beenalmost uniformly reached, and the old discrepancy between men andwomen had disappeared. This was the 'golden age' of the book in theWest: the first generation which acceded to mass literacy was also thelast to see the book unchallenged as a communications medium, byeither the radio or the electronic media of the twentieth century.This expansion of the reading public was accompanied by the spread
New Readers in the Nineteenth CenturyMartyn Lyons319:'*,1of primary education. Progress in education, however, tended to follow,rather than precede, the growth of the reading public. Primary education only became effectively free, general and compulsory in Englandand France after the 1880s, when those countries were already almostcompletely literate.Meanwhile, the shorter working day provided more leisure time forreading. In 1910, for instance, the Verein fiir Socialpolitik found thatmost German workers associated leisure only with sun day . But theworking day had been getting gradually shorter in Germany since 1870,and by the end of the century, a ten-hour day was normal. In England,a nine-hour day was the rule by 1880. Even the working classes couldbegin to join the ranks of the new reading public.The new public devoured cheap novels. In the eighteenth century, thenovel was not regarded as a respectable art-form, but in the first quarterof the nineteenth century, its status was assured. It became the classicliterary expression of triumphant bourgeois society. In the early years ofthe nineteenth century, novels were rarely produced in print runs ofmore than 1,000 or 1,500 copies. By the 1840s, editions of 5,000 copieswere more common, whiie in the 1870s, the cheapest editions of JulesVerne appeared in editions of 30,000.6 In the 1820s and 1830s, WalterScott had done much to enhance the reputation of the novel, and hadbecome an international success in the process. By the 1870s, JulesVerne was beginning to reach the global readership that made him acolossus of the growing popular fiction market. The mass production ofcheap popular fiction integrated new readers into national readingpublics, and helped to make those reading publics more homogeneousand unified.The publishers, who had now 'arrived' for the first time as a body ofprofessional specialists, fully exploited the new opportunities for capit, ialist investment. Cheap monthly instalments could reach a wider public 'than the traditional, well-bound, three-decker novel. The serializationof fiction in the press opened up a new market, and made the fortune of 'authors like Eugkne Sue, Thackeray and Trollope. A new relationship !was created between the writer and his or her public. American readers, 'it was reported, crowded the docksides to greet the ship bringing the ,next instalment of Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, so eager were :they to learn the fate of the heroine, Little Nell. The French public first 'read Marx's Das Kapital in weekly instalrnents, published in 1872. In afamous essay of 1839, Sainte-Beuve warned that this 'industrialization,of literature' could never produce great art.' The lure of profit, jIhowever, would not be denied.The new readers of the nineteenth century were a source of profit, but athey were also a source of anxiety and unease for social Clites. The 1848 ,1revolutions were partly blamed on the spread of subversive and socialistliterature, which reached the urban worker and a new audience in thecountryside. In 1858 the British novelist Wilkie Collins coined thephrase 'The Unknown Public' to describe 'the lost literary tribes' of3 million lower-class readers, 'right out of the pale of literary civilisation'.' He referred to the readers of illustrated penny magazines,which offered a weekly fare of sensational stories and serials, anecdotes,readers' letters, problem pages and recipes. The readers of the pennynovels included many domestic servants and shop-girls, 'the young ladyclasses'. According to Collins, 'the future of English fiction may restwith this Unknown Public, which is now waiting30 be taught the difference between a good book and a bad'. England's new readers, whonever bought a book or subscribed to a library, provided middle-classobservers with a sense of discovery, tinged with fear.The Female Reader: Occupying a Space of her OwnWomen formed a large and increasing part of the new novel-reading. public. The traditional discrepancy between male and female literacyrates was narrowed, and finally eliminated by the end of the nineteenth; century. The gap had always been the widest at the lowest end of thesocial scale. In Lyons at the end of the eighteenth century, day-labourersand silk-workers were twice as literate as their wives; but in artisantrades like baking, where the wife might be responsible for the accounting, and frequent contact with the public was required, women were theequals of their literate male partner . Perhaps more women than we realize could already read. The signar ture test, commonly used by historians to measure literacy, hides fromview all those who could read, but were still unable to sign their ownname. This group was essentially female. The Catholic Church had triedas far as possible to encourage people to read, but not to write. It wasuseful for parishioners to be able to read the Bible and their catechism,but the ability to write as well might have given peasants an undesirabledegree of independence in the eyes of the clergy. Perhaps for this reason,many women could read but not sign or write. In some families, therewas a rigid sexual division of literary labour, according to which thewomen would read to the family, while the men would do the writingand account-keeping.Girls' education continued to lag behind that of boys everywhere inEurope. At the end of the eighteenth century, only 9 per cent of pupilsin Russian state schools were girls, and in SpaniskfNavarre in 1807,boys' schools outnumbered girls' schools by two to one. In France, the/1t
New Readers in the Nineteenth CenturyMartyn Lyonsfirst Lcoles normales d'institutrices were not established until 1842, butby 1880, over two million French girls attended school.The provision of more formal schooling for girls therefore seemed tofollow, rather than precede, the growing feminization of the readingpublic. Expanding opportunities for female employment (for example,as teachers, shop assistants or postal clerks) and gradually changingexpectations of women did more to raise the level of female literacy.The nineteenth century witnessed the growth of a thriving female magazine industry and the emergence of a comparatively new phenomenon:the blue-stocking. Women writers, pilloried mercilessly by satirical journals like Le Charivari as a threat to domestic stability, made their mark.The notoriety of a few individuals like George Sand should not disguisethe more general literary contributions made by women everywhere inthe nineteenth century. The femme des lettres had arrived.The role of the female reader was traditionally that of a guardian ofcustom, tradition and family ritual. In Protestant families in Australia,for instance, the family Bible was usually handed down from generationto generation through the female line. In it were recorded births, marriages and deaths, so that it remained a symbol of Christian traditionand family continuity.'OSimilarly, Pierre-Jakez Hiliar, recalling his own childhood nearPlozevet.in Finistkre, towards the beginning of the twentieth century,- --told us that the Vie des Saints had been part of his mother's trousseau: In the house, aside from my mother's prayer books and a few collectionsof hymns, there were only two large volumes. One of them, which waskept permanently on the window sill, was Monsieur Larouse's Frenchdictionary .the other was closed into the cupboard that my mother hadreceived as a wedding gift. It was The Lives of the Saints, written inBreton."This account links aseries of cultural dichotomies. The Lives of Saintswas a specifically female preserve, and the maternal wedding chest wasa hoard of religious knowledge, in opposition to the Larousse, a treasury of lay wisdom. The Vie des Saints (or Buhez ar zent) representedCatholic France, while Larousse was an emblem of secular republicanism. Htlias's mother's chest was, at the same time, Breton-speaking territory, while the window sill supporting Larousse was a kind of altardevoted to the French language. The traditional image of the womanreader tended to be of a religious, family-oriented reader, far removedfrom the central concerns of public life.The new women readers of the nineteenth century, however, hadother, more secular tastes, and new forms of literature were designedfor their consumption. Among the genres destined for this new marketof readers were cookery books, magazines and, above all, the cheappopular novel.Among cookery manuals, La Cuisinihe bourgeoise takes pride ofplace in early nineteenth-century France. Thirty-two editions of thistitle, or of Lo Nouvelle Cuisinike bourgeoise, were produced between1815 and 1840, the years of its greatest popularity. The total print runproduced in this period was probably about 100,000 copies, whichmade it a bestseller of the Restoration.12La Cuisinike bourgeoise typified the cooking of the Enlightenment,embodying a more scientific approach to dietetics and a rejection bothof aristocratic luxury and of the coarse taste of the lower classes. LaCuisini2re bourgeoise was published with a set of instructions, whichdefined specifically bourgeois gestures and table manners. Advice wasgiven on correct seating arrangements, on the roles of husband and wifeat table, on the proper subjects of mealtime conversation, and onvarious rituals of collective consumption. Bread, for example, was to bebroken not cut in peasant fashion; wine, the book h d y insisted, couldbe taken neat immediately after the soup course, but decorum thereafterdictated that it be watered. In these ways, the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie was encouraged to invent its own distinctive style of socialbehaviour, or its own gestural code, which would allow it to recognizeits own, and to identify interlopers.Unlike its rivals, Le Cuisinier royal and Le Cuisinier bnpkial, LaCuisinihe bourgeoise was female, and the book was usually edited bywomen. This did not mean that publishers expected bourgeois womento read and use La Cuisinike bourgeoise. The book included not only, recipes and advice on entertaining, but also all the household dutiesof domestic servants, for whom the manual was especially written. According to the preface to the 1846 edition, the mistress of the houseI 'can have it read to her domestic servants from time to time . which: will save her the trouble of repeating the same instructions over andover again. In this respect, this book is indispensable for bachelors, whoalways risk encountering inept domestics."' The book's real readershipwas thus even more democratic than its title implied; it was destined notjust for the personal use of the bourgeoise, but also for those whosought to serve her better.Recipes and advice on etiquette were incorporated into women'smagazines, alongside fashion news. The oullza?des Dames et desModes lasted from 1797 until 1837, carrying engravings and descriptions of both male and female outfits. It was followed in the 1840s byjournals like the J o u m l des demoiselles and La Toilette de Psychb.Gradually, fashion magazines began to reach a more popular readership:
Martyn Lyons- a trendindicated perhaps in France when femme replaced dame inmagazine titles. By 1866, La Mode illustrbe had a print run of 58,000,with its combination of fiction, household hints and sumptuouslyillustrated fashion pages.14From time to time, attempts were made to launch journals whichwere not just aimed at female readers, but which actively promotedfeminist causes. La Voix des femmes was an ambitious daily whichappeared for three months in 1848. In the Third Republic, La Droit desfemmes urged the re-establishment of divorce and educational facilitiesfor girls. La Fronde was entirely produced by women, between 1897and 1903.Weekly illustrated magazines flourished during the Second Empire inFrance, many of them based on English antecedents like the PennyMagazine or the Illustrated London News. Le Journal illustrb, forexample, was an illustrated weekly, established in 1864, with eightpages in folio format. One or two pages were taken up with an illustration, and other features included views of Paris, puzzles, some Europeannews, society chat and a causerie thbdtrale. In 1864, an entire issuewritten by Alexandre Dumas and Gustave DorC boasted a circulation of250,000.1s Such weeklies, costing ten centimes and sold at street kiosks,were becoming an integral part of mass urban culture.Les Veillbes des chaumih-es catered more specifically for femalereaders, and promised something more moral and uplifting than itscompetitors. Costing only 5 centimes per issue, it offered novels asbonuses for subscribers, and at times included three different feuilletons.It did not, however, ignore the potential drawing power of large melodramatic illustrations. The serialized Fbdora la nihiliste opened in 1879with a full-page illustration, in which a fur-coated Tsar presided, godlike, above the clouds, with sword and sceptre, accompanied by a halfnaked winged figure holding a shining crucifix. Below, a masked figureholding a smoking revolver lay transfixed by a sword. FCdora could notdestroy a monarch who enjoyed divine protection. Les Veillbes deschaumibres had two columns of text, with very few breaks exceptchapter headings. Only in the twentieth century did women's magazinesdiscover the value of breaking up the text, and of interspersing it withillustrated advertisements. In so doing, it was offering a kind of fragmented reading, more perfectly attuned to the interrupted workingrhythm of a modern housewife.For contemporary publishers, the woman reader was above all a consumer of novels. They offered series like the Collection des meilleursromans franpis dbdibs aux dames (Werdet in Paris), or fiction for kdonne gentili (Stella in Milan). Such titles were making a claim torespectability, attempting to reassure both male and female purchasersNew Readers in the Nineteenth Centurythat the contents were suitable for delicate eyes. They tried to corner aparticular sector of the market, but at the same time, they encouragedthe growth of a female reader's subculture. This development ultimatelyrestricted, rather than expanded, sales, and the practice was rarely continued beyond the Restoration period. Nevertheless, to create a seriesdefined by its public, rather than its material contents, was a newdevelopment in publishing.In Stendhal's correspondence, the author emphasized the importanceof the female reader for the novelist. Novel-reading, he claimed, was thefavourite activity of French provincial women: 'There's hardly a womanin the provinces who doesn't read her five br six volumes a month.Many read fifteen or twenty. And you won't find a small town withouttwo or three reading rooms (cabinets de lecture).'I6 While the femmesde chambre read authors like Paul de Kock in small duodecimo format,Stendhal continued, the femmes de salon preferred the more respectablenovel in octavo, which aspired to some kind of literary merit.Although women were not the only readers of novels, they wereregarded as a prime target for popular and romantic fiction. The feminization of the novel-reader seemed to confirm dominant preconceptionsabout the female's role and about her intelligence. Novels were held suitable for women, because they were seen as creatures of the imagination,of limited intellectual capacity, both frivolous and emotional." Thenovel was the antithesis of practical and instructive literature. Itdemanded little, and its sole purpose was to amuse readers with time on .their hands. Above all, the novel belonged to the domain of the imagination. Newspapers, reporting on public events, were usually a male preserve; novels, dealing with the inner life, were part of the private sphereto which nineteenth-century bourgeois women were relegated.This carried a certain danger for the nineteenth-century bourgeoishusband and paterfamilias: the novel could excite the passions, andstimulate the female imagination. It could encourage romantic expectations that appeared unreasonable; it could make erotic suggestionswhich threatened chastity and good order. The nineteenth-century novelwas thus associated with the (supposedly) female qualities of irrationally and emotional vulnerability. It was no coincidence that femaleadultery became the archetypal novelistic form of social transgression inthe period, from Emma Bovary to Anna Karenina and Effi Briest.The threat which fiction posed to sensitive girls was emotionallydescribed by a reader herself, subsequently 'redeemed' from her errors.Charlotte Elizabeth Browne, daughter of a Norwich clergyman, wasonly seven when she innocently encountered The Merchant of Venice. 'Idrank a cup of intoxication under which my b i n reeled for many ayear,' she wrote in 1841.
New Readers in the Nineteenth CenturyMartyn Lyonsroman-feailleton, or serialized novel, was a subject of everyday conversation among women readers, and many would cut out the episodes asthey were published, and paste or bind them together. The improvisednovels so created could be passed on through many female hands.ashoemaker's ciaughter from the Vaucluse, born in 1900, explained:I revelledin the terrible excitement that it gave rise to; page after Pagewas stereotyped upon a most retentive memory, without an effort, andduringa sleepless night I feasted on the pernicious sweets thus h ardedinmy brain. . Reality became insipid, almost hateful to me; co versation,.except that of literary men . . a burden; I imbibed a th-ough contemptfor women, children, and household affairs, entrenching myself behindinvisible barriers. . Oh how many wasted hours, how much of unprofitable labour, what wrong to my fellow-creatures, must I refer to thisensnaring book! My mind became unnerved, my judgement perverted, myesrimate of people and things wholly falsified. . Parents know not whatthey do, when from vanity, thoughtlessness, or overindulgence, theyfoster in a young girl what is called a poetical taste."a result of this harrowing experience, Charlotte issued strict warningsto parents about protecting the young from dangerous reading.The seductive
The Female Reader: Occupying a Space of her Own Women formed a large and increasing part of the new novel-reading . public. The traditional discrepancy between male and female literacy rates was narrowed, and finally eliminated by the end of the nineteenth ; century. The gap had always been the widest at the lowest end of the social scale. In Lyons at the end of the eighteenth century, day .
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