Social media had precedent in 17th century

The Charlotte Observer
Lake Norman Magazine (University City News)
Friday, February 07, 2014

Allison Stedman wrote a book to answer a question she’d had since writing a thesis for her first master’s degree in comparative literature at Dartmouth College in 1997: What do these hybrid texts written within stories in French rococo literature represent?

Stedman is associate chairwoman of the Department of Languages and Culture Studies at UNC Charlotte. Her book is titled “Rococo Fiction in France, 1600-1715: Seditious Fiction.”

Hybrid texts are poems, short stories and letters written within a story. After 20 years of interest, Stedman discovered the reason these incorporated forms of experimental writing existed was to celebrate being different.

The absolute control of the monarchy during King Louis XIV’s reign set rules for all political, cultural and social engagements, including the written word.

“The rococo fiction created a social network rebelling against him,” she said. The texts defy social roles, creating an inclusive atmosphere much the same as we see in today’s social media, she said.

Stedman, who has published three books, said rococo authors encouraged everyone to become writers and gave them the platform to do so. She compared it to blogging today.

“This experimental literature created a culture of people who were interested in being different, inspiring one another to bring out their unique voice.”

She went on to explain how rococo fiction caused a shift in perception, which helped give rise to the French Revolution and can even be credited with influencing the spirit of democracy we experience today.

Stedman will explain more about hybrid texts at UNCC’s next “Personally Speaking” talk, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the J. Murrey Atkins Library. The event is open to the public, but registration is required.

Nancy A. Gutierrez, dean of UNCC’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the “Personally Speaking” series – now in its fourth year – was created by college’s advisory council in partnership with the library to bring community awareness to the “cutting-edge work our faculty do.”

“The idea was that we would not be afraid to have faculty talk on topics that might not necessarily be topical or popular,” Gutierrez said.

Stedman, who lives with her husband and two children off Harrisburg Road at the Preserve at Kinsley Lakes, said she looks forward to talking to the public about her research and explaining the unconventional nature of her line of work.

“The better you can understand the past, the better you can do today,” she said.

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