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13th April 2023 Phoebe Mumby (2020, English)

Dr Jenni Nuttall To Publish Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words this May

This May Exeter’s Dr Jenni Nuttall, Stipendiary Lecturer in English, will publish her first trade non-fiction book titled Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words. Inspired not only by her expansive knowledge of the English language but also by conversations with her teenage daughter and inquisitive students, Mother Tongue is a book for both language-lovers and feminists alike, and for anyone who wishes to embark on a deep-dive into the past to explore how women could vocalise their experience both then and now.

From the very beginnings of Old English through to our present day, Dr Jenni Nuttall takes readers on a journey throughout the evolution of women’s words, allowing us to question how we have historically described female bodies, menstruation, sexuality, the consequence of male violence, childbirth, paid and unpaid work, and, of course, gender. What is most striking, perhaps, is that contrary to what we may believe, there was an array of ways for women to express their daily, gendered experience prior to our more modern set of terms that have developed from about the 1800s onwards with ‘Modern English.’ By uncovering a lost history of women’s words, Dr Nuttall demonstrates how these early English words for certain aspects of women’s lives have so much to offer us today. Though it may seem paradoxical to delve further into the past, it is exactly this that can help push feminism forward, uncovering some of the most expressive and eloquent terms of our vocabulary that have become lost.

Prior to publication, Mother Tongue is already the book on the tip of many reviewer’s tongues, receiving sparkling reviews: bestselling author Kate Mosse has described it as ‘fascinating, intriguing, witty, a gem of a book’, whilst writer and academic Victoria Whitworth has called it a ‘revelatory delight’ in which ‘there is a nugget of joy and wisdom on every single page.’

Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words will be published by Virago Press in the UK on 25 May and by Viking Press worldwide in August. It is available for pre-order here.

Click here to listen to Jenni discuss her book on BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth.

Mother Tongue by Jenni Nuttall

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