In her new book, "Bible Readers and Lay Writers in Early Modern England: Gender and Self-Definition in an Emergent Writing Culture," Kate Narveson, Luther College associate professor of English, looks at Bible reading among ordinary layfolk after the Reformation, and shows how it gave rise to a nonprofessional writing culture, what she calls the first bloggers.
"Bible Readers and Lay Writers in Early Modern England," published by Ashgate Publishing, is based on a study of books and manuscripts written between 1580 and 1660.
The book begins by analyzing how lay people were taught to read Scripture both through instruction in techniques such as note-taking and collation, and then how they adapted those techniques to create their own devotional writing.
The first half of the book explores the manuscripts that ordinary men and women left behind, and gives case studies of writings by people like a London wood turner and a silk merchant's daughter. The second half of the study turns to the question of how gender registers in this lay scriptural writing, offering extended attention to the little-studied meditations of Lady Grace Mildmay, a contemporary of Shakespeare.
Narveson concludes by arguing that by midcentury, despite clerical anxiety, writing was central to lay engagement with scripture and had moved the center of religious experience beyond the church walls.
Narveson received a master's degree in history from London's Warburg Institute and a doctoral degree in Renaissance literature from the University of Chicago.