Jakob K. Hellstenius posing in the MPIWG hallway

Jakob Kaaby Hellstenius

Predoctoral Fellow (Sep 2022-Feb 2026)

Ignorance in the Age of Text: “Ignorant” Readers and Their Reading in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain

Jakob K. Hellstenius’s project seeks to understand the reading practices of those readers in Britain who were deemed “ignorant” in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “Ignorant” readers were berated by elites for reading “uninstructive” texts that did nothing to change their material and intellectual poverty, but instead deepened their ignorance—yet such reading was anything but a meaningless pastime.

Jakob explores, first, how such readers’ understanding of religion, economics, intimacy, human nature, and more was shaped by the texts they read; and second, their practices of reading, which mediated the creation, not of ignorance, but knowledge that was legitimized by a different epistemology and was opaque to those unaware of its foundations.

Methodologically, Jakob applies a range of approaches, from traditional archival work to methods from science and technology studies and the digital humanities.

Jakob received both his MA and BA from the University of Oslo. His MA explored the effects of the diversification and universalization of the written word on the reading practices of common readers in nineteenth-century Norway. He was the recipient of the UiO:Norden and Foreningen Norden’s Master thesis scholarship and the Master thesis scholarship of the LO (Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) for studies in labor history.


Find Jakob's profile on the Website of the International Max Planck Research School – "Knowledge and its Resources" (IMPRS-KIR).

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