The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America

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9780674527867: The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America

The subject of Michael Warner's book is the rise of a nation. America, he shows, became a nation by developing a new kind of reading public, where one becomes a citizen by taking ones place as writer or reader. At heart, the United States is a republic of letters, and its birth can be dated from changes in the culture of printing in the early eighteenth century. The new and widespread use of print media transformed the relations between people and power in a way that set in motion the republican structure of government we have inherited.

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About the Author:

Michael Warner is Seymour H. Knox Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University. He is the editor of American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King and Fear of a Queer Planet. He also writes for The Nation, The Advocate, The Village Voice, and other periodicals.

Review:

Michael Warner captures better than anyone else I know the way a new technology and the practices related to it can enable a new social formation to crystallize. In doing so Warner provides us with a terribly important lesson in how to conceive of society and more particularly how to understand the functioning of society within the condition of Western modernity. An excellent book. (Charles Taylor, McGill University)

Innovative in conception, resourcefully argued, The Letters of the Republic will certainly become one of the indispensable books on eighteenth-century American literary history. [This] lucid study...is marked throughout by a distilled, mature intellection that is rare even in senior scholars and in a younger scholar's first book most extraordinary (Lawrence Buell, Harvard University)

A brilliant revaluation of eighteenth-century America, a work of extraordinary learning and sustained insight, with far-reaching implications, both practical and theoretical, for the study of literature and culture through the Revolutionary and Federalist eras, and beyond. It establishes Michael Warner unquestionably as a major critic and a leading Americanist. (Sacvan Bercovitch, Harvard University)

The Letters of the Republic is a highly original book of great explanatory power, one that fills a gaping hole in the secondary literature of eighteenth-century American culture and brings a theoretical sophistication to the literary history of that period rarely encountered in the scholarship this is an important and in many ways remarkable book. It is written with grace and with a broad intelligence always in evidence. (Jay Fliegelman, Stanford University)

Overall, the writing is marvelously economical and precise ... The book is original without being forced; the originality lies in both the fundamental scheme and in the careful readings of particular materials. (David Hall, Harvard University)

Michael Warner's compact discourse on the meaning of the printed word in eighteenth-century America will be recognized by every reader as an extraordinarily ingenious contribution, and one of lasting lasting importance, to the study of republicanism and to the history of print...Warner's notion of a socially and culturally limited "public sphere," inhabited by participants in a depersonalized, largely printed discourse, not only rings true to the evidence but provides a powerful aid in articulating the nature and limits of republicanism. (Charles E. Clark William and Mary Quarterly)

Arguing the inseparableness of print and culture, this is one of the most engaging books about eighteenth-century American publishing in decades. (Hazel Dicken-Garcia Journal of the Early Republic)

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