Holy Cards/Immaginette: The Extraordinary Literacy of Vernacular Religion
Salvatori, M. R.
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Like other seemingly ordinary materials (cookbooks, street art, scrapbooks, etc.) the subject of our investigation-holy cards or (in Italian) immaginette-often function as rich repositories of personal and cultural memory as well as indicators of popular literacy practices. But to relegate them to the category of ephemera, as is customary with materials of this sort, diverts attention from their significant cultural and pedagogical value. In our attempt to foreground the complex nature and function of these artifacts, we have found much of the scholarship on vernacular or material religion and everyday culture particularly helpful. In their attention to what popular culture scholar David Morgan has called "objects that have not mattered in most historical accounts," these areas of study have lent support to our "understanding of the[ir] power and meaning" (xi). Yet, it is literacy studies that has enabled us to cast light on and to articulate their intricate, extraordinary pedagogical workings. At the same time, these humble artifacts have enabled us to critically re-approach and put pressure on some of the most commonplace articulations of literacy. Our goal then is to demonstrate that these seemingly "ordinary objects" are significant cultural and historical signifiers and that as such they can contribute to a fuller understanding of the common literacy practices of vernacular religion.