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Title: The Literary Clubs and Societies of Glasgow during the Long Nineteenth Century: A City’s History of Reading through its Communal Reading Practices and Productions
Author(s): Weiss, Lauren Jenifer
Supervisor(s): Halsey, Katie
Blair, Kirstie
Issue Date: Oct-2017
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis uses the minute books and manuscript magazines of Glasgow’s literary societies as evidence for my argument that the history of mutual improvement groups—including literary societies—needs to be re-written as a unique movement of ‘improvement’ during the long nineteenth century. In foregrounding the surviving records, I examine what it meant to be literary to society members in Glasgow during this period. I discuss what their motivations were for becoming so, and reflect on the impact that gender, occupation and social class had on these. I demonstrate that these groups contributed to the education and literacy of people living in the city and to a larger culture of ‘improvement’. Further, I argue that there is a case to be made for a particularly Scottish way of consuming texts in the long nineteenth century. In Glasgow, there were at least 193 literary societies during this period, which I divide into four phases of development. I provide an in-depth examination of two societies which serve as case studies. In addition, I give an overview and comparison of the 652 issues of Scottish and English society magazines I discovered in the context of a larger, ‘improving’ culture. I offer possible reasons why so many literary societies produced manuscript magazines, and show that this phenomenon was not unique to them. These magazines fostered a communal identity formed around a combination of religion, class, gender and local identity. I determine that societies in England produced similar types of magazines to those in Scotland possibly based upon the Scottish precedent. These materials substantially contribute to the evidence for nineteenth-century mutual improvement societies and their magazines, and for working- and lower-middle class Scottish readers and writers during the long nineteenth century, social groups that are under-represented in the history of reading and in Victorian studies.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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