Volda is a small town of approximately 8500 inhabitants, situated on the Western coast of Norway not far from Ålesund. First and foremost Volda is associated with traditions for higher education, dating back to the late 1850's. Today Volda has a medium-sized university college.
Establishing educational institutions in such a small and rural community as Volda must, however, be understood in the context of an
even older tradition of enlighted knowledge among commoners in the area. Sivert Aarflot, a local peasant, founded the first public library (1797) and established the first printing house (1807) in rural Norway. His network of written culture and information, comprising a newspaper (1810-16) and a lot of prints and books, was a feat of enlightenment at least unequalled in rural Norway. This culture of knowlegde was furthermore an important prerequisite for the linguist Ivar Aasen, born and bred in the vincinity of the Aarflot library. As known, Aasen's research in the 19th century founded the New Norwegian language, which in turn provided the basis for the popular "nynorsk-movement".
The theme of the conference is Cultures of Knowledge. Comparative Perspectives on Literacy and Language. Our intention is to
compare this local cultural tradition within an international perspective. Furthermore we intend to examine various approaches to the
history of cultural forms before 1850, hereunder the role of common literacy as an agent of change, written culture as a culture of
modern common knowledge, and european representations of peasant reading and writing in the Age of Enlightenment.
The conference will employ several speakers to cover the topic from different angles of incidence (see homepage for details).
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