Jakob Kaaby Hellstenius

Predoctoral Fellow (Sep 2022-Feb 2026)

Jakob Hellstenius’ project is an attempt at untangling the interplay of the “anti-knowledge” and reading practices of British common readers in the 18th and 19th century. While common readers were berated by elites for reading “uninstructive” texts that did nothing to change their readers’ material and intellectual poverty—but instead deepened their ignorance—their reading was anything but a meaningless pastime.

In his research project, Jakob explores how common readers’ understandings of medicine, economics, intimacy, human nature, and more, were shaped by the texts they read, and their practices of reading and how this, far from ignorance, was knowledge which could run contrary to that of elites, legitimized by a different epistemology.

Methodologically Jakob will rely on 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 19th century Norway. He was the recipient of the UiO:Norden and Foreningen Norden’s Master thesis scholarship, as well as LO’s (Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions) Master thesis scholarship for studies in labor history.

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