Rural Literacy in Sixteenth Century Norway
Chapter, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEdlund, Ann-Catrine; Edlund, Lars-Erik; Haugen, Susanne [Eds.] Vernacular Literacies - Past, Present and Future p. 125-135 Journal of Northern Studies, Umeå University and Royal Skyttean Society, 2014
This contribution discusses how the increased importance of literacy, in its widest meaning, in the beginning of the Early Modern era affected the Common Man in Norway. What relationship did farmers in remote areas have to the written word in the sixteenth century? The paper claims a “literacy of the illiterate.” Even people who could not themselves read were members of communities that relied on written testimonies and their use; they were used to hearing charters read out loud and knew how they were supposed to sound. The language that defines rural charters on land trade and similar matters will first be briefly compared to the general development in Norway during the sixteenth century. Then there follows a discussion of what kind of people were involved in the issuing and writing of charters, before these charters are evaluated as sources of our understanding of the literary or textual culture, if one may use such a word, of their time. The claim is made that the social function of these texts and their peculiar linguistic form (compared to other texts written in Norway at the same time) are connected.