‘sollte ich gar nicht lesen, dann könnte ich von Sinnen kommen’:1 Women and Reading
This chapter examines women's reading in Germany during the 18th century. Old reading modes continued to coexist with new reading habits, and women's individual freedom to read depended not just on their social class, but also on their personal circumstances, which frequently changed during their lifetime. This chapter shows women as participants in the literary culture of the era, rather than as outsiders. Their access to reading matter may have been somewhat restricted, but access it they did, and their personal documents show just how familiar they were with the literary canon of the time. Throughout this chapter, a strong association between women and reading is discernible, which laid the foundation for a reading public to which women writers could appeal. Finally, the chapter looks at the autobiographical writings of Elisa von der Recke, revealing the status of reading in her life. It also documents how, in her case, prohibitive discourse was translated into proscriptive action.
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