English | Renaissance Poetry and Prose
L730 | 24785 | Linton


1:25p – 4:25p M

TOPIC:  MAKINGS OF A PUBLIC SPHERE IN EARLY MODERN ENGLAND

Since Jürgen Habermas dated the rise of the liberal public sphere in
England to the late 18th century, scholars have argued for its
earlier emergence in different forms, linked to printed petitions in
the 1640s (Zaret), to the burgeoning of pamphlet literatures and
print journalism between the 1590s and early 17th century (Halasz),
and to the debates between Puritans and Papists in the 1570s and
1580s (Lake and Questier).  Their arguments provide conceptual
frames for inquiry within three historical moments.  We will
consider what constitutes the “public” in each instance and, indeed,
whether we are dealing with a single, comprehensive public sphere or
a plurality of competing publics. We will especially attend to the
kinds of issues that came up for debate, and the ways literary and
even dramatic texts can be said to coexist with a developing culture
of information and to participate in the contest of ideas. Such
attention will in turn require discussion of the changing political
technologies and technologies of the self within this increasingly
literate though still largely oral society.  I envision an initial
exploration into ways of theorizing the public sphere or spheres,
followed by three roughly chronological areas of inquiry. I am open
to input on issues and materials to consider, and their variety
should enable individual inquiry in a number of directions.
Participants in this seminar will each be responsible for one 20-
minute presentation with annotated bibliography, several 5 minute
reports on pamphlets and pamphleteers (to provide efficient
coverage), and a 20-page research paper (proposal, first and final
drafts).

Following is a tentative outline for the course.  Our first area of
inquiry will have a dual focus on the Protestant and Catholic
polemics aimed at shaping policy and public opinion during the time
of Elizabeth I, and (in Tessa Watt’s words) the “cheap print” that
mediated “popular piety,” an example of which is the figure of the
plowman in the popular imagination.  We will then turn to the
pamphlet literature on several issues: the attacks on and defenses
of theater, the elaboration of an Elizabethan underworld in the
rogue pamphlets, the debate on woman, and the colonial venture in
Virginia with a foray into the praises and blames of tobacco
(including King  James’ _Counterblast_). Our final inquiry will deal
with writings relating to the English and scientific revolutions, as
well as republican and royalist visions of the English nation.
Inquiry into these areas will allow us to examine the interplay of
religious conscience and political interests, the pamphleteer’s
dependence on patronage and print, the participation of women
writers in the literary market, the relation between theater and
print media, the workings of gossip, rumor, and intelligence among
courtly circles and beyond, publics and imagined communities, and
censorship and fearless speech in theory and practice.

The recent publication of two pamphlet anthologies on the woman
question and on the theater debate makes it convenient and even
timely for this seminar. In addition to pamphlets, ballads and
broadsides, newsletters, sermons and polemics, the readings for this
course may include: Thomas Deloney’s _Jack of Newberry_, Nashe’s
Summer’s _Last Will and Testament_, tales from George Petty’s
_Petite Palace of Pleasure_, Rachel Speght’s _A Mouzle for
Malestomas_, Aemelia Lanyer's _Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum_, poems by
Isabella Whitney, Shakespeare’s _King Lear_, Jonson’s _The Staple of
News_, Marvell’s _Horation Ode_ and instances of pastoral, Sidney’s
_Apology for Poetry_ and Milton’s _Areopagitica_, Margaret
Cavendish’s _The Blazing World_, and selections from _The Faerie
Queene_, _Leviathan_, and _Paradise Lost_.