School of Humanities
MA History of Design, 2012
Title of Dissertation: ‘To make the Letter Bredth’ – Women reading, writing and making in seventeenth-century England
This dissertation uses a small archive of seventeenth-century English manuscripts, dated between c. 1625 and 1660 to explore notions of elite women reading, writing and making in early modern England. The manuscripts are instruction books with tiny silk samples for making silk braids by the handcraft of fingerloop braiding. References to women’s work and the levels of literacy required for reading, if not writing, the instructions and to work the braids point to an elite female provenance. The inclusion of instructions to make silk braids inscribed with letters of the alphabet led to considerations of the implications of elite women using their craft skills with their literacy skills to inscribe text into tiny textiles .
The approach of this dissertation was to research and interrogate the manuscripts as texts, as textiles, and as text and textile together. As texts the manuscripts were explored in the wider context of early modern didactic literature and household books, and of the burgeoning early modern desire for practical and aesthetic knowledge.
As textiles, they were considered in terms of the continuity and change in the craft’s production and consumption between the fifteenth and seventeenth century.
Drawing text and textile together, this dissertation explored women’s reading practices and their engagement in early modern gifting practices. Using their literacy skills and their craft knowledge, elite women had the power to write words into silk braids for their own consumption, as innocent gifts or as more subversive tokens of affective political loyalties.
- BA (Hons), English, Queen Mary College, University of London, 2010
- Intern, Europe 1600–1800, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011 to present