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Robert Stearn

Writing Skill and Gender, 1650-1750

The thesis is a study of what kind of knowledge, capacity, or property skill was in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England and of the uses it afforded early modern people. Focussing on kinds of work that have been peripheral to canonical forms of practical knowledge (domestic service, for example), it draws on both graphic and textual sources in order to ask: what kind of everyday consistency did skill have and how did its outlines change; what figurative means were used to place people and practices formally excluded from skill in relation to it; and what role did skill play in constituting contemporary categories of gender, class, nation, and race?