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Work in HandScript, Print, and Writing, 1690-1840$
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Aileen Douglas

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198789185

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198789185.001.0001

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Factory Hands

Factory Hands

(p.177) 7 Factory Hands
Work in Hand

Aileen Douglas

Oxford University Press

Early nineteenth-century England saw a protracted and vigorous controversy over the teaching of writing in Methodist Sunday schools. The Methodist preacher and printer Joseph Barker contributed a passionate autobiographical pamphlet to the pro-writing faction. Barker attributed his own ability to write to his attendance at Sunday school, and his pamphlet details the importance of everyday acts of copying and writing to his life as a Christian and a man. Barker argues that Sunday is the only day on which the child factory workers can attend school, and that to deny them writing is an act of cruelty. Using biblical allusions, images of slavery and of the human body, Barker represents writing as a human activity. Barker associates the ability to write with freedom, but his utopian vision of writing for all is a contradictory one which he cannot reconcile with the material facts of child labour.

Keywords:   writing controversy, Sunday schools, Joseph Barker, autobiographical, copying, factory, slavery, freedom, human

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