John Hodgson
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Lancashire Hodge-Podge: Reading the John Rylands Library through the Concept of Hybridity
in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Postcolonial theory has yielded productive methodologies with which to examine an institution such as the John Rylands Library. This paper reinterprets aspects of the Library‘s history, especially its collecting practices, using Bhabha‘s concept of hybridity. The Library‘s founder, Enriqueta Rylands, embodied hybridity and colonial talking back in her remarkable trajectory from a Catholic upbringing in Cuba, via her conversion to Nonconformity and her marriage to Manchester‘s most successful cotton manufacturer, to her usurpation of the cultural hegemony in purchasing spectacular aristocratic collections for her foundation. Hybridity was embedded in many other aspects of the Library‘s development: it was established as a public library with a board of governors but its collections were largely shaped by Enriqueta‘s tastes and interests; it was independent until 1972, while maintaining very close links to the University of Manchester; it has always fulfilled a dual remit of addressing the research needs of scholars and attracting wider audiences; and it is simultaneously a library of printed books and manuscripts, an archive repository, and a gallery of visual materials.

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