Citizen Critics: LITERARY PUBLIC SPHERES (History of Communication)

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9780252068676: Citizen Critics: LITERARY PUBLIC SPHERES (History of Communication)

In this revealing study of the links among literature, rhetoric, and democracy, Rosa A. Eberly explores the public debate generated by amateur and professional readers about four controversial literary works: two that were censored in the United States and two that created conflict because they were not censored. In Citizen Critics, Eberly compares the outrage sparked by the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer with the relative quiescence that greeted the much more violent and sexually explicit content of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psychoand Andrea Dworkin's Mercy. Through a close reading of letters to the editor, reviews, media coverage, and court cases, Eberly shows how literary critics and legal experts defused censorship debates by shifting the focus from content to aesthetics and from social values to publicity. By asserting their authority to pass judgments-thus denying the authority of citizen critics-these professionals effectively removed the discussion from literary public spheres. enterprise rather than solely as a private one, Eberly suggests the potential impact a work of literature may have on the social polity if it is brought into public forums for debate rather than removed to the exclusive rooms of literary criticism. Eberly urges educators to use their classrooms as protopublic spaces in which students can learn to make the transition from private reader to public citizen.

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"A well-written text that contribues much to public sphere studies. It offers needed case studies of actual citizen deliberation, which reveals how people may interact across multiple publics. Focusing on literary works, Citizen Critics connects cultural texts to political discourse, showing how cultural texts need not induce passivity in their audiences but instead may activate a political consciousness." -- Robert Asen, Augmentation and Advocacy ADVANCE PRAISE "Citizen Critics is clearly an important book, valuable for what it contributes to literary history, cultural criticism, and rhetorical studies, valuable for what it offers to potential citizen critics in and out of the academy, and, perhaps above all, valuable for what it contributes toward the regeneration of a public discourse in a truly participatory democracy." -- Stephen Mailloux, author of Reception Histories: Rhetoric, Pragmatism, and American Cultural Politics

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