Enlightenment Mediations

This is Enlightenment, edited with Clifford Siskin


This collection began as a conference organized by Clifford Siskin, Knut Ove Eliassen and myself at NYU entitled “Mediating Enlightenment.” In the collection, Cliff Siskin and I sought to develop the implications of the following hypothesis: “Enlightenment is an event in the history of mediation.”
"Since “mediation” embraces both the technological and the human—it does not discriminate, that is, against any particular form of agency—discussing print in its history points us past the increasingly unproductive binary of techno-determinism. Where we can go instead is into more detail about how mediations of all kinds—infrastructure, genres, associational practices, protocols—interact over time. Because mediations can be more easily pinned down to specific times and places than “ideas,” we can track more of them more accurately—and thus more readily identify patterns in those interactions. A history of mediation thus provides new—and newly useful—ways of thinking about change." (From the Introduction)
Citation: Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

If this is Enlightenment Then What is Romanticism?, with Clifford Siskin


This essay was given as a joint lecture at the 2010 meeting of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (NASSR) devoted to the topic of mediation. What drew most attention to this plenary lecture was that our emphasis upon the centrality of mediation to change meant that Romanticism would need to play a secondary role to Enlightenment.
"What emerged, that is, was the experience of Enlightenment as a historical event – an event in the history of mediation. And what happened after that event, happened on that platform. The relationship of the Romantic period to Enlightenment is that of an eventuality to an event: Romanticism took shape as a contingent possibility, a coming to terms with what had just happened in the terms that event had platformed – had turned into a platform."
Citation: European Romantic Review. July, 12pp.

Resistance on the Circuit: The Novel in the Age of the Post


This essay reads one novel – Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility – in relation to the revolution in postal communication of the long 18th century.
"From early in Sense and Sensibility, characters are crypts of information—they carry secrets about themselves (or others) that limit their relations to others. … It will be the work of the plot of the novel to disseminate this vital information gradually enough so that reliable communication (among characters and with the reader) may be achieved by novel’s end. I want to argue that the post as it functions within the text slows down, complicates, and structures the communications by which characters are changed and new associations are formed."
Citation: NOVEL: A FORUM IN FICTION. Special Issue, ed. Nancy Armstrong.

Protocols of Liberty: Communication Innovation and the American Revolution (Forthcoming in Fall 2013)


The Protocols of Liberty offers an account of how, in the midst of a chronic political crisis, American Whigs seized the political initiative through a set of interrelated innovations in communication. To understand the power of these innovations, this book zooms into moments of political crisis in British America where events could have gone either way: the day after the Boston Massacre; the late December days that culminated in the destruction of the tea in Boston harbor; the days of late May 1774 when the Virginia committee of correspondence responded to Parliament’s punitive bill closing Boston harbor. In the final years before revolution, American Whigs gained leverage from their earlier invention of the standing committee of correspondence and the popular declaration, and their deployment of both to develop an intercolonial network of America Whigs. This Whig network could only emerge because of the character of two media institutions that had developed over the previous century: the postal system and the weekly newspaper. By being open, public, and free (of government control), the newspapers and the postal system served as robust supports for political communication. Throughout the political crisis what was done depended on how political sentiments were communicated. At the heart of revolutionary communication were certain generally observed protocols—of legal procedure, corporate action, public access, general address, and virtuous initiative—which this book traces through the full arc of the political crisis: from the Boston town meeting’s appointment of the committee that composed a public statement of their rights and grievances to the Continental Congress’ drafting and publication of the Declaration of 1776.
Citation: Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Forthcoming in Fall 2013.

The Thing that Invented Norway (Forthcoming)


Citation: in Textualizing Democracy. Ed. Karen Gammelgard. Forthcoming by May, 2014.

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