Reading Pitscottie's Cronicles: a case study on the history of literacy in Scotland, 1575-1814

Mackay, Francesca L. (2016) Reading Pitscottie's Cronicles: a case study on the history of literacy in Scotland, 1575-1814. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis addresses a range of research questions regarding literacy in early modern Scotland. Using the early modern manuscripts and printed editions of Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie’s late sixteenth-century 'Cronicles of Scotland' as a case study on literacy history, this thesis poses the complementary questions of how and why early modern Scottish reading communities were encountering Pitscottie’s 'Cronicles', and how features of the material page can be interpreted as indicators of contemporary literacy practices. The answers to these questions then provide the basis for the thesis to ask broader socio-cultural and theoretical questions regarding the overall literacy environment in Scotland between 1575 and 1814, and how theorists conceptualise the history of literacy.

Positioned within the theoretical groundings of historical pragmatics and ‘new philology’ – and the related approach of pragmaphilology – this thesis returns to the earlier philological practice of close textual analysis, and engages with the theoretical concept of mouvance, in order to analyse how the changing ‘form’ of Pitscottie’s 'Cronicles', as it was reproduced in manuscript and print throughout the early modern period, indicates its changing ‘function’. More specifically, it suggests that the punctuation practices and paratextual features of individual witnesses of the text function to aid the highly-nuanced reading practices and purposes of the discrete reading communities for which they were produced.

This thesis includes extensive descriptive material which presents previously unrecorded data regarding twenty manuscripts and printed witnesses of Pitscottie’s 'Cronicles', contributing to a gap in Scotland’s literary/historiographical canon. It then analyses this material using a transferable methodological framework which combines the quantitative analysis of micro-data with qualitative analysis of this data within its socio-cultural context, in order to conduct diachronic comparative analysis of copy-specific information.

The principal findings of this thesis suggest that Pitscottie’s 'Cronicles' were being read for a combination of devotional and didactic purposes, and that multiple reading communities, employing highly nuanced reading practices, were encountering the text near-contemporaneously. This thesis further suggests that early modern literacy practices, and the specific reading communities which employ them, should be described as existing within a spectrum of available practices (i.e. more or less oral/aural or silent, and intensive or extensive in practice) rather than as dichotomous entities. As such, this thesis argues for the rejection of evolutionary theories of the history of literacy, suggesting that rather than being described antithetically, historical reading practices and purposes must be recognised as complex, coexisting socio-cultural practices, and the multiplicity of reading communities within a single society must be acknowledged and analysed as such, as opposed to being interpreted as universal entities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Robert Lindsay, Robert Lindesay, Pitscottie, Cronicles of Scotland, Scottish chronicle, reading, literacy, reading communities, historical reading practices, historical pragmatics, new philology, pragmaphilology, mouvance, textual afterlives, punctuation, paratext, early modern
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy J.
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Francesca Mackay
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7341
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 12:49
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 10:55

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