One of the great shames about Armitage’s autobiography is that he does not talk about any of his interests and therefore, says very little about reading as an activity. For that reason, this post is more speculative as to the importance of reading and writing during Joseph’s lifetime.
Armitage must have had some experience (and enjoyment) of reading in order to write his autobiography. I’d like to speculate that he may have been an autodidact person, his relatively short time at school and the seemingly poor curriculum may not have led to much encouragement to read for pleasure. So maybe we can decipher the kind of texts he read from his style of writing? Joseph’s writing is highly descriptive and in parts rather humorous, perhaps he was a reader of autobiographical texts? I feel he also must have enjoyed some form of comedy, perhaps through reading or maybe later in life in film, TV and radio?
What I think Armitage manages to do with his writing can be relevant to points made in James Hinton’s ‘The “Class” Complex’: Mass-Observation and Cultural Distinction in Pre-War Britain’. Hinton suggests that ‘By drawing on “culture” – “the best which has been thought and said in the world” – creative individuals, like Armitage, can find examples to critique their society and social norms, but also gain a better understanding of their own meaning of life. As a butterfly effect, the same can be said for people who have the opportunity to read Armitage’s autobiography (myself included).
Image 1: http://www.cawstonparish.info/readingrooms.htm
Hinton, James. ‘The “Class” Complex’: Mass-Observation and Cultural Distinction in Pre-War Britain’, Past and Present, no. 199, May, 2008