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Writing and Power in the Roman World
Literacies and Material Culture


  • Date Published: October 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108418058

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About the Authors
  • In this book, Hella Eckardt offers new insights into literacy in the Roman world by examining the tools that enabled writing, such as inkwells, styli and tablets. Literacy was an important skill in the ancient world and power could be and often was, exercised through texts. Eckardt explores how writing equipment shaped practices such as posture and handwriting and her careful analysis of burial data shows considerable numbers of women and children interred with writing equipment, notably inkwells, in an effort to display status as well as age and gender. The volume offers a comprehensive review of recent approaches to literacy during Roman antiquity and adds a distinctive material turn to our understanding of this crucial skill and the embodied practices of its use. At the heart of this study lies the nature of the relationship between the material culture of writing and socio-cultural identities in the Roman period.

    • Provides a material dimension to our understanding of ancient literacy that will appeal to both archaeologists and classicists; undergraduates will also find this a suitable introduction to the topic
    • Offers a comprehensive review of recent approaches to literacy in Classics
    • Gives readers a contextual discussion of writing equipment in Roman burials
    • Includes a summary and discussion of all forms of writing equipment
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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2017
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108418058
    • length: 282 pages
    • dimensions: 260 x 188 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.8kg
    • contains: 69 b/w illus. 13 colour illus. 10 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Understanding Literacies, Material Culture and Practice in the Roman World:
    1. Introduction: literacies, power and identities
    2. The practicalities of literacy: writing implements in the Roman world
    3. Literacy as technology and practice
    Part II. A Case Study:
    4. Materials and production
    5. Metal inkwells in the Roman Empire
    6. A practice turn: thinking about inkwell use
    7. The spatial and social distribution of inkwells
    Part III. Writing Equipment in Funerary Contexts and the Expression of Identities:
    8. Literacy as performance: self-presentation of the educated elite?
    9. Literacy and the life course: gender
    10. Literacy and the life course: age
    11. Literacy, the body and elite identities: writing and status
    12. Conclusion: writing Empire through material culture.

  • Author

    Hella Eckardt, University of Reading
    Hella Eckardt teaches provincial Roman archaeology and material culture studies at the University of Reading. Her research focuses on theoretical approaches to the material culture of the north-western provinces and on questions of mobility and migration. She is particularly interested in the relationship between the use of Roman objects and the expression of social and cultural identities, and has published on lighting equipment in Illuminating Roman Britain (2002), objects associated with grooming and personal adornment in Styling the Body in Late Iron Age and Roman Britain: A Contextual Approach to Toilet Instruments (2008) and material culture from Britain generally in her book, Objects and Identity: Roman Britain and the North-Western Provinces (2015).

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