The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762-1860

The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762-1860

by Elizabeth Massa Hoiem
The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762-1860

The Education of Things: Mechanical Literacy in British Children's Literature, 1762-1860

by Elizabeth Massa Hoiem

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Overview

By the close of the eighteenth century, learning to read and write became closely associated with learning about the material world, and a vast array of games and books from the era taught children how to comprehend the physical world of “things.” Examining a diverse archive of popular science books, primers, grammars, toys, manufacturing books, automata, and literature from Maria Edgeworth, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Anna Letitia Barbauld, The Education of Things attests that material culture has long been central to children’s literature.

Elizabeth Massa Hoiem argues that the combination of reading and writing with manual tinkering and scientific observation promoted in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain produced new forms of “mechanical literacy,” competencies that were essential in an industrial era. As work was repositioned as play, wealthy children were encouraged to do tasks in the classroom that poor children performed for wages, while working-class children honed skills that would be crucial to their social advancement as adults.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625347558
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date: 01/29/2024
Series: Childhoods: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Children and Youth
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

ELIZABETH MASSA HOIEM is assistant professor in the School of Information Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1
What Children Grasp
The Tangible Properties of Objects

Chapter 2
Moving Bodies
Manual Labor and Children’s Play in Mechanical Philosophy Books

Chapter 3
“The Empire of Man over Material Things”
Children’s Books on Manufacturing and Trade

Chapter 4
Self-Governing Machines
Automata and Autonomy in Maria Edgeworth’s Fiction

Chapter 5
“Knowledge That Shall Be Power in Their Hands”
Radical Grammars for Working-Class Readers

Conclusion
William Lovett’s Case of Moveable Type

Notes
Index

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