Reading and Writing Communities in the Trenches 1914-1918 (France and Italy)
"I draw on evidence from French and Italian soldiers in the First World War to argue that ordinary soldiers in the trenches constituted a reading community, where soldiers shared similar values, and similar expectations of and appetites for reading. In some ways, they formed more of a reading community than their superior officers. At the same time, the trenches were also writing communities in which soldiers plunged into an epistolary frenzy of impressive proportions. Going against the grain of the normal practice of book historians, who tend to treat reading and writing as quite separate activities, I prefer to consider them together, aiming at a more rounded vision of cultural history and of literacy practices. In considering reading and writing amongst French and Italian soldiers, I refer to a number of published soldiers' letters and testimonies, of which there are literally hundreds now available. In addition, I refer to archival material of diverse origins in each country."
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