Article ID: CBB762600338

Ignorance as a Productive Force in Complex Storyworlds: The Case of Pilgrim’s Progress (2021)


This article aims to show how attention to the history of ignorance can bring to light salient qualities of key texts from the past, and in doing so illuminate not just the history of the book and the history of reading. The eighteenth-century saw a substantial increase in availability of printed material, but most full-length printed books were beyond the budget of the poorest. This market was met by chapbook abridgements of the most popular texts, some of which were considered by the higher ranks to be proper reading for the poor (religious classics) and some which were more controversial (fiction). However, readers on each side of this divide were often ignorant not only of how the other side was reading specific texts, but of the fact that they were not in fact reading the same text at all, since the poor were much more likely to rely on abridgements. I compare two abridgements of a key eighteenth-century religious text, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and show how both converge on a more forward looking narrative technique than the original and on a more level representation of social ranks than the original. An “approved” text for the poor, therefore, by means of ignorance, had the potential to encourage a non-approved attitude towards aesthetic innovation and social rank.This article is part of a special issue entitled “Histories of Ignorance,” edited by Lukas M. Verburgt and Peter Burke.

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Article Lukas M. Verburgt; Peter Burke (2021) Introduction: Histories of Ignorance. Journal for the History of Knowledge (pp. 5-5). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Burke, Peter
Ciavolella, Massimo
Gross, Matthias
Harrison, Timothy S.
Martin, Alison E.
Ottinger, Gwen
Science as Culture
Book History
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Science and Education
Cambridge University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of Michigan
Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group
University of Pennsylvania Press
Ignorance (Theory of knowledge)
Science and literature
Natural history
Science and society
History of science, as a discipline
Bunyan, John
Behn, Aphra
Defoe, Daniel
Descartes, René
Hume, David
Hutton, James
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
16th century
19th century
21st century
Great Britain
United States

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