Martyn Lyons

Australian Readers Remember: An Oral History of Reading, 1890-1930, written by Martyn Lyons with Lucy Taska, was the first survey of its kind, a literary history of Australia based on readers’ attitudes and experiences.

Current research: Convinced that the history of reading practices should no longer be tackled in isolation from other literacy practices, Martyn has been researching the ‘ordinary writings’ of peasants and artisans in 19thc-20thc France, Italy and Spain. Writing of course was a rarer skill than reading, but Martyn is aiming now at a more integrated history of the uses and functions of literacy. He is interested in the ways that semi-literate and/or partly educated people came to grips with the challenge of writing as an everyday necessity. His chief focus has been on (French and Italian) soldiers’ correspondence from the trenches in 1914-1918 and letters home from Spanish emigrants to the Americas, between about 1860 and the 1920s. This recently came together in a book entitled The Writing Culture of Ordinary People in Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

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