Printing Publics:
A special issue dedicated to the memory of
Richard Helgerson,
1

edited by Patricia Fumerton

 


Introduction:
Making Printing Publics


Patricia Fumerton

 

     1. This special issue of Early Modern Culture arose out of a constellation of three historical moments: 1) the instantiation of the hugely ambitious Making Publics project, or MaPs, directed by Paul Yachnin and headquartered at McGill University <http://makingpublics.mcgill.ca/>, officially begun in 2005, funded at 2.4 million CAD dollars by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and now nearing completion of its five-year mandate; 2) the recent rise of academic interest in the history of the material book and print culture; 3) and the tragic loss in April 26, 2008 of the preeminent scholar and unparalleled human being, Richard Helgerson <http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/cvs/rhelgerson_brief.asp>. It was most immediately the impending death of Richard, as I worked with him on MaPs and readied to take over his leadership of the MaPs contingent here at the University of California-Santa Barbara, that planted in my mind the seed for this issue on "Printing Publics."2 My thought was not to offer yet another way to memorialize Richard's remarkable career (many other scholars have done and are doing just that in a tributary wave of conferences and publications) but rather to document one of Richard's most influential scholarly achievements which has not yet been fully publicized. I refer to Richard's invaluable contribution to the formative stages of McGill's Making Publics project (fully titled: "Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700"). So often we as academics forget the muscular and experimental process involved in collaborative thinking that successfully brings different people and their ideas together into a singular productive form. The shaping collaboration -- sometimes frustrating and stumbling, sometimes dead-ended, sometimes confrontational, sometimes exhilarating -- is in large part left behind in the final academic "product." Yet those very multi-pronged and not always successful formative processes were crucial to making that product "finished," to the extent any project can be called finished, and should be remembered and valued as models of how to make ambitious intellectual collectivity work. Documenting Richard's early contribution to the Making Publics project, in sum, is a valuable record and model of productive academic collaborative thinking. It puts into print, and in printing thus also memorializes, the historical process that constitutes the very making of a public of Making Publics. This story, then, is Richard's story, but it is also the story of all of us involved in wrestling with the concept of early modern publics, and it leads naturally to a mini-story about the role of print in that process as imagined in the subsequent essays of this special issue.

     2. It is in the nature of the Making Publics project that it continually evolves, as does its webpage <http://makingpublics.mcgill.ca/>, and so it can be difficult to recover the project's early life. But the most recently updated "Project Summary" on the MaPs website repeats earlier versions of a promised goal for the project to develop "an innovative and potentially transformative approach to the history of early modernity." The sheer scope of the project's embrace as stated in its funding proposal, which is also reproduced on the MaPs website3-- a scope that has continued to expand dramatically since the project was actually funded in 2005 -- was certainly most innovative and potentially transformative: a proposed thirty-one scholar team from ten institutions across Canada, the US, and Europe, together recruiting and funding graduate student associates (at last count forty GSAs are on board) as well as offering post-doctoral fellowships and travel funding for graduate students and junior faculty; sponsoring conferences hosted at McGill and at other participating universities from various countries, as well as smaller-scale colloquia, in-person and web reading groups, annual summer seminars, and coursework; and disseminating print publications -- two official collections were originally planned, one of which is already published -- together with radio productions about individual and collective work on the project4; and, finally, reaching out to the general public via high school classes and community festivals. The scholarship of participants collectively represents a range of countries across Europe and the period 1500 to 1700 (with a promise of relevance to contemporary modern culture) and includes the disciplines, among others, of Art History, Education, Geography, History, History of Religion, History of Science, Literary Studies, Media Studies, Music History, Sociology, and Theatre History. "At the heart of our work," a collective "we" speaks in the current Project Summary, "is the phenomenon that we are calling 'making publics' -- the creation of small-scale forms of association that represented a new way of connecting with others, a kind of connection not founded in family, rank, or vocation, but rather a form of voluntary community built on the shared interests, tastes, and desires of individuals."

     3. Clearly acting as both creative and chafing spur to the above definition is the notion of a singular post-1700 "public" or "public sphere" as most famously promoted by Jürgen Habermas in his groundbreaking The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (published in German in 1962 but not in an English version until twenty-seven years later, in 1989).5 Habermas located the rise of the public sphere in the eighteenth century as a function of the growth of market capitalism, the press, and a bourgeois class which gathered in public places, such as coffee houses, to engage in rational political and intellectual discourse that challenged aristocratic state power. In this Habermasian vision, the private householder emerges as public against state: "The bourgeois public sphere may be conceived above all as the sphere of private people come together as a public . . . against the public authorities themselves."6 Though in many ways inspired by Habermas, especially by his focus on the fold of private/public -- and occasionally falling back into the alluring "dark place" of his powerful narrative of the public sphere -- MaPs takes objection to the smooth historical transition plotted by Habermas from feudalism to an absolutist state to an independently-generated bourgeois civil society that could challenge state power and, most importantly, to the notion of a singular "public." In situating its sights pre-1700, MaPs assumes almost a priori that if we don't yet have a public sphere in this earlier period, we must have multiple publics. Its grant proposal is full of questions about the nature of such publics, briefly described above, which it hopes to address in the first year of the project:

 How are publics made?

 Who makes them?

 How and why do individuals participate? What are the obstacles and incentives to access to particular publics?

 What is the role of markets and media in the creation of publics?

 What are the internal dynamics of the emergence, development, and transformation of publics?

 How do publics differ in different regions and in relation to different kinds of artistic and intellectual activities?

 What is the relationship between representational modes and publics, and how do changes in forms of representation affect the status of publics? How do publics forge their languages of self-description?

 What is the relationship between publics and established authority? What are the socio-political effects of the formation of publics?7

But the question prior to all these questions, unasked in the proposal, is "What is a (versus the) public"? This is the question that in fact the MaPs team grappled with for most of its first two years of existence, and from the personal accounts made to me by Richard Helgerson, reporting on the first annual MaPs meeting at McGill in August 2005, participating in this defining effort was like being part of a many-headed Hercules grappling with a most slippery Proteus (metaphor mine).

     4. Richard had been brought onto the MaPs project as "co-investigator" and member of its "management team." Richard could not resist an intellectual challenge, especially one that brought so many scholars of varying interests together focused on solving a single knotty problem. In speaking of the August 2005 MaPs sessions, he excitedly recounted the animated, inspired, conflicted, and extensive exchanges brought to the table by so many different scholars from so many different disciplines across the relatively long time period of 1500-1700, and the adopted procedure of breaking the team into interdisciplinary working groups, each addressing a particular question and historical case related to the main question, "What is a public"? But, though exhilarated by the resultant reports from the mini-groupings, Richard feared that at the end of the proceedings, all the collective hard work would dissolve without a trace. He thus determinedly pinned down the Protean proceedings by acting as a Herculean amanuensis, and recorded each group's findings. What emerged is what MaPs now famously and fondly refers to as "Richard's Twelve":

  1.  Publics are voluntary associations.
  2.  For most of their members, these publics are not essential to their members' income. (That is, they are not guilds or other professional associations.)
  3.  Publics are based on taste and on interest of a relatively disinterested sort.
  4.  Each public seeks to have a voice.
  5.  Each public exercises or seeks to exercise some measure of agency.
  6.  Each public has an implicit, though not usually explicit, political dimension.
  7.  Each public has a normalizing function. That is, it seeks not only to be, but also to imagine and define what it is.
  8.  Each public aspires to grow.
  9.  Each has a spatial dimension as it exists and functions in a more-or-less delimited space.
10.  Each public has a characteristic form of expression defined by a particular media.
11.  Each public is non-official but has some relation to the official.
12.  Each public is open to strangers who need not be present at a public's actual gatherings.

     5. On dispersing to their various home departments and institutions, participants of the August McGill sessions embarked on a barrage of email communications -- one of the many uses of the web later employed by MaPs to foster chat rooms and other discussions across space and time -- which continued the August discussions but with the specific intent of probing "Richard's Twelve." This extensive set of conversations was documented by an in-house MaPs compendium of sixty-seven pages edited by GSA Yael Margalit.

     6. Richard himself returned to Santa Barbara with his own strategy for testing "Richard's Twelve." He first assembled a UCSB consortium of mostly English Department graduate students and faculty. The original UCSB group consisted of the then graduate students Stephen Deng, Simone Chess, William Gahan, Tassie Gniady, Jessica C. Murphy, Eric Nebeker, Liberty Stanavage, and Edward (Mac) Test -- six now hold PhDs -- and were soon joined by myself and later by the recently appointed assistant professors, Ken Hiltner and James Kearney. We began, naturally, by reading Habermas (moving on the next year to join a MaPs Virtual Reading Group focused around the concept of "communities").

     7. With the UCSB group initially feeling a bit at sea, given the magnitude and potential abstractness of the issues facing them, Richard suggested that each Graduate Student Associate (GSA) consider the twelve points that had been developed in the first making-publics series of meetings and look at self-reflexive moments in the printed resources each was studying for his or her respective dissertation topic (that is, prefaces, dedications, prologues, epilogues, plays-within-plays, etc.) to see in what ways such materials were or were not addressing a particular public. How did authors of the period think about or imagine people receiving their work? Could one detect a targeted public or community, if you will, who would engage with the expressed ideas and take them away for further conversation? This is where the history of print became particularly important to the project, as the students looked primarily at printed paratextual materials and also at different editions or "craftings" by printers, publishers, and authors of the various published materials they were studying. Students then presented their individual findings to the group.

     8. What emerged early on, since this was a largely literary group, despite the cultural focus of the individual literary projects, was a strong sense of frustration. Many especially worried about whether their literary as opposed to historical documents could demonstrate the actual existence of a public. Did literary or textual imaginings really count? That is, if an author or printer/publisher talks about a public imagined in a particular way, does such writing prove that such a public actually existed in early modern culture? Can we talk about imaginary publics, whether or not they ever physically existed at all? Does an audience attending a play or any public performance count as a public? Particularly problematic points for some among "Richard's Twelve" were point #2, since economics had a lot of play in the production of print culture; #3, since we wondered how anyone could be entirely or even mostly disinterested; #6, since other factors than politics, such as aesthetics or consumerism, might bring people together in a common interest; and especially #9, since, once again, the demand that a public have a spatial dimension requires it be a physical and locatable entity as opposed to an imagined one. Point #9 also denies the possibility of a public created only via discourse or other media, such as art or, to think of a later historical period, television.

     9. What was a particularly liberating moment for the UCSB MaPs group -- which coincidentally became a moment of productive enlightenment at the summer 2006 general MaPs meetings I attended in Montreal as well -- was when we posited that we should talk about "making publics" versus "making publics," that is, when we shifted our focus from thinking about "publics" to thinking about "making." Inherent in the concept of "making" is the idea that an imagined public might not in fact yet exist, or for that matter ever exist, as an achieved historical entity. Particularly helpful in this regard was our collective reading of Michael Warner's book Publics and Counterpublics, which culminated in the multi-voiced, vibrant, and sometimes hilarious virtual chat room session we engaged in with multifarious members of the MaPs team across the US and Canada on January 25, 2008 (in which we at UCSB became identified as the "UCSB Gang"). Warner, we noted, also positions himself mostly against Habermas, working from the assumption that Habermas's relatively homogenous public sphere was not the only kind of public in any period, and looking both earlier and later in historical time to discuss and document the nature of plural publics, including what he calls "counterpublics." As an introductory base for his investigation, he offers seven rather than twelve points that make up a public:

1.  A public is self-organized.
2.  A public is a relation among strangers.
3.  The address of public speech is both personal and impersonal.
4.  A public is constituted through mere attention.
5.  A public is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse.
6.  Publics act historically according to the temporality of their circulation.
7.  A public is a poetic world making.8

     10. If I were to align Michael Warner's seven points with Richard Helgerson's original twelve points, as I proposed we do at one UCSB MaPs meeting, the chart might look something like this:

 

Defining Making Publics

Richard Helgerson's 12 Points
(MaPs August 2005 Meetings)
 
Michael Warner's 7 Points
(Publics and Counterpublics 2002)
 
1. Publics are voluntary associations. 1. A public is self-organized.  
2. For most of their members, these publics are not essential to their members' income. (That is, they are not guilds or other professional associations.)   
3. Publics are based on taste and on interest of a relatively disinterested sort.  More balanced as:
3. The address of public speech is both personal and impersonal. 
4. Each public seeks to have a voice.   
5. Each public exercises or seeks to exercise some  measure of agency.   
6. Each public has an implicit, though not usually explicit, political dimension.  Related but not equal to:
6. Publics act historically according to the temporality of their circulation. 
7. Each public has a normalizing function. That is, it seeks not only to be, but also to imagine and define what it is.   
8. Each public aspires to grow.  
9. Each public has a spatial dimension as it exists and functions in a more-or-less delimited space. vs.
4. A public is constituted through mere attention.
10. Each public has a characteristic form of expression defined by a particular media. 5. A public is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse.
7. A public is a poetic world making.
11. Each public is non-official but has some relation to the official.  
12. Each public is open to strangers who need not be present at a public's actual gatherings. 2. A public is a relation among strangers.

 

Though not as numerous as Richard's original twelve points, Warner's more delimited seven points helped us expand our critical thinking about "the twelve." In particular, they further enabled our ongoing shift (and this includes Richard's intellectual shift as well) from product-oriented to process-oriented thinking, as well as our emphasis all along on the creative text (Warner's "circulation of discourse" and "poetic world making"). Most of us found Warner's point #4 a bit extreme -- that "a public is constituted through mere attention." One example Warner gives of such "mere attention" is someone walking by a lecture hall and stopping for a moment to listen: "you might have wandered into hearing range of the speaker's podium in a convention hall only because it was on your way to the bathroom. No matter: by coming into range, you fulfill the only entry condition demanded of a public."9 Most of us would place such a passing stranger outside of the public created within the lecture hall -- if such an assembly was indeed a public and not merely a relatively passive audience. Being a member of a public, we thought, requires showing more investment of attention. But we also found this point liberating in that it reinforced our own increasing sense that some publics are stronger than others (with also some members more involved than others) and that publics "come and go," that is, they can be stronger at some times and weaker at others.

     11. At UCSB's two-day Making Publics Conference, March 9-10, 2007, in which Richard launched the event with another telling of the originary making of "Richard's Twelve," I closed the conference with a reflection upon the reflexive discourse about publics generated through our many exchanges at this MaPs conference as well as through other venues, in person and virtual, and through cross-MaPs reading groups of numerous scholars in addition to Warner who were tackling in print questions about early modern publics. The UCSB MaPs conference brought together an international community of twenty-two scholars to think more probingly about making publics, including keynote speakers who were long-time members of the Making Publics project, such as David Harris Sacks (History, Reed), Lesley Cormack (History and Classics, University of Alberta), and Brian Cowan (History, McGill University) as well as a relative stranger to the MaPs project, Ann Bermingham (Art History, UCSB); in the same fashion, it included another eighteen senior and junior scholars from both within and outside the MaPs public. After two years of deliberating so hard about making publics, many of us attending this conference felt we were living in the historical moment of one sphere of a public of the Making Publics project which for that momentary period in historical time brought together familiars and many strangers in an exchange or reflexive circulation of discourse focused on various texts and artifacts of early modern Europe.

     12. What subsequently emerged by the spring of 2007, with Richard Helgerson's stamp of approval, was a finely tuned and long-tested consensus among the UCSB contingent of what constitutes a public, which we dubbed the "UCSB 5." Together with then UCSB GSA, Eric Nebeker, I presented our list at the summer 2007 MaPs meetings and conference sessions held at McGill:

The UCSB 5

     13. A public is a group of varying size that shares a common interest and has the following characteristics:

1) It is in a state of construction, is organic, and not institutionalized. Thus it is open to newcomers, though not necessarily any newcomer; they need to fit the group in some way. It also might be "strong" (high social prominence and set agendas) or "weak" (low or more diffused presence and only shared interests), and it may move between these two qualities.

2) It is communicative, whether in person or through various media or both.

3) It can be located, but such location might be in a physical space, in a series of texts, or just in the minds of its participants (or even just in the minds of those outside the public who believe it exists?).

4) It seeks social influence, though not necessarily political influence.

5) It is aware of itself as a group (with the qualification raised by the question in parenthesis in #3).

The "UCSB 5" constitutes both a distilling of "Richard's Twelve" and an evolution of that twelve brought about by two years of putting hard pressure upon his listed points through intensive and extensive reading of Warner and others, as well as through animated exchanges between ourselves, other members of the MaPs team (itself at all times evolving), and relative strangers or newcomers to the team -- exchanges that took place and are still taking place in multifarious forums and through multifarious media. Not all members of MaPs would likely agree with the "UCSB 5." Many, for instance, would still demand some political dimension to a public, even if such politicization is only implicit. According to Brownen Wilson and Paul Yachnin, this is the position taken by all of the contributors to their first official MaPs published collection: each contributor, these editors note, can be found "developing case histories of public making in a range of more and less political activities."10

     14. But it is significant that each of the scholars who has contributed to this special issue on Printing Publics for Early Modern Culture showcases most if not all of the UCSB 5 -- though I must stress, the contributors were not asked or even expected to do so. I suspect this has to do with the fact that each begins, as did the UCSB MaPs team, from a largely literary position, and each focuses on publics (as they were asked to do) made or in the making through the vehicle of print. The unstable and always in-process nature of print, especially in its formative stages of the early modern period, is underscored by the very subtitle to Adrian Johns's innovative sudy, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (emphasis mine). Destabilizing the long-standing foundation of print history written by Elizabeth Eisenstein, Johns makes us acutely aware of the "many contingencies" attendant upon "the processes leading to the deployment of a book."11 Each of the scholars contributing to this special EMC issue on Printing Publics is also keenly attuned to such unstable, if evolving, contingencies -- what the UCSB 5 strives to capture in the term "organic" -- and to the shifting strategies by which authors/printers/publishers and readers of the early modern period capitalized on such conditional processes to make or strive to make publics in and through print. Each contributor has in the process also "puzzled" Habermasian thinking, often revisiting his folding or extending of private into public, but most especially collectively focusing on versions of "poetic world making" or what the UCSB 5 refers to as the "communicative" and possibly textual versus (or at least as well as) physical location of publics.

     15. Michelle O'Callaghan (Reader in the Department of English and American Literature and also Director of the Early Modern Research Center at the University of Reading, UK) positions printing publics in a much earlier historical and literary time than does Habermas. She posits a "public spheres" model to understand the formation of purposeful communities of the book in the 1590s, as instanced through a sub-genre of the anthology or miscellany, which she calls "the elegiac anthology." Inspired initially by the death of Sir Philip Sidney, these elegiac anthologies are distinctive in that they turn loose collections of verse into politicized and deliberately crafted print communities, "united by factional sympathies" (10) and gathered around the figure of the dead poet. O'Callaghan argues that such strategic deployments of the book and its paratextual machinery was part of an ongoing education in the imaginative uses of print in making publics. She here "troubles" Peter Lake and Steven Pincus's notion of the "occasional and episodic" nature of "a post-Reformation public sphere" as well as their singularly grounding such shifting responses in historically-specific religious and political controversies.12 At particular historical moments, such as the Essex rebellion in 1601 and the Overbury scandal in 1616, the elegiac anthology did provide a format for responding to political events. Yet, even in these instances, she notes, commercial and aesthetic or cultural interests were also at work in shaping these publics. The anthology thus provides an example of the way the printed book could fictionally fashion and sustain a range of publics and multiple agendas (politics, commerce, aesthetics, etc). These publics could intersect or alternatively could adopt distinct trajectories.

     16. O'Callaghan also takes issue with Habermas's emphasis on communicative rationality and open accessibility in his notion of the public sphere. She notes that elegiac anthologies of the early modern period capitalize on impassioned modes of persuasive speech to move their readers as well as on modes of secrecy -- "closet-writings" and forms of social and cultural exclusivity associated with a supposedly closed coterie of authors/editors; they do so precisely to market factional rivalries and refined culture to a more socially broad-based public of consumers. O'Callaghan's reading of the continually evolving elegiac anthology -- as it develops from the late sixteenth-century Sidneian legacy of political and literary elite culture to the early seventeenth-century miscellanies focused on Overburian court scandal and satiric wit -- reveals that "all make use of the elegy to give voice to the print community" (34). As she notes, "verse anthologies tell a story of the acculturation to print and the increasing awareness of the diverse and specialized uses of the printed book in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries" (36).

     17. Mac Test -- a member of the original UCSB MaPs team assembled by Richard Helgerson, and now assistant professor of English at Boise State University -- criss-crosses the English Channel and also the Atlantic to recover a botanical public of sixteenth and seventeenth-century scholars and humanists, whose collective printed productions are also, in the terms of one critic he cites, "anthological." This botanical public, though international in scope, was not open to everyone, but it was not a closed club either. Membership took the form of a collaborative network tied together by friendship, curiosity, observation, recording, travel, and the circulation of seeds and plants as well as of herbal illustrations (and even woodblocks), letters, manuscripts (including friendship books), and, of course, printed texts. During his long botanical career, for instance, Carolus Clusius of Leiden (1526-1609) corresponded with some 300 people across Europe and traveled extensively to exchange seeds, plants, and knowledge. Clusius's botanical public is most definitively not only imagined but spatially and materially documentable in its "global modality." But a botanical public can also be located in a more stable private-public space, such as John Dee's home library. Dee's was the largest library in England in the late sixteenth century (housing some 4,000 volumes). Among many texts and curiosities, it held a substantial collection of botanical books (including one by Clusius) and was open to gatherings of herbal enthusiasts, among other publics.

     18. The popular, much-frequented space of Dee's library in London -- and the fact that it was located in London -- points to the importance in the global botanical community of the printed herbal anthology. Indeed, Test points out, tracing "the various roads of informational and material exchange . . . ultimately identifies the primary nodes of influence in the botanical network: cities like London, Antwerp, and Seville, were among the major metropolitan centers for collecting New World imports and printing New World texts, including herbals" (6). Reflexively drawing upon each other in ways similar to the elegiac anthologies that O'Callaghan discusses, herbal anthologies printed in these various urban centers expanded exponentially in size over the course of the Renaissance. At the same time, they became one of the most popular printed books of the period, creating an even larger and more socially diverse public of consumers of both herbs and printed herbals.

     19. The open circulation and exchange of people, things, and ideas as represented through the dissemination of the printed herbal further popularized and became a catalyst for the "new" empirical science traditionally epitomized by Sir Francis Bacon's Novum Organum (1620). But, as Test underscores (paraphrasing Antonio Barrera-Osario), the Baconian call for direct observation in place of (or in addition to) received Greco-Roman narratives of natural history was nothing new: "His [Bacon's] guiding principle of empirical evidence based upon direct observation of nature was first institutionalized in Spain's House of Trade and Council of Indies almost one hundred years earlier" (13). A model of such empirical study conducted not through ancient history books but at its natural source was the fieldwork of Dr. Francisco Hernández, whose study of Mexican plants (circulated in preliminary manuscript pages in the 1580s and printed in both 1615 and 1651) strikingly employs native Nahuatl nomenclature for its documented plants. Indeed, the emerging global botanical public which practiced empirical methodologies was deeply invested in collaborating with indigenous cultures. It comprised a two-way transatlantic flow of knowledge and goods that was truly an international and communal effort. As Test further observes, quoting Brian W. Olgivie, the early botanical public made up of scholars and humanists also explicitly rejected "protocapitalist intrusions into its domain'" (2), that is, the exploitation of New World flora and knowledge. Ironically, or perhaps necessarily, however, the boost given to empirical science by the early botanical public -- especially as disseminated in the explosion of printed herbals across Europe to a much larger consuming public -- ultimately doomed New World nature. In the end, "the global reach of overseas exploration and the advent of the printing press brought together a world of knowledge into the printed herbal" which was "a Faustian endeavor that ultimately helped transform the natural world into a global marketplace" (22).

     20. Katherine Gillespie (Associate Professor of English at Miami University) also turns to the dissemination of a public through print but focuses on a much more private kind of public than does Test, or even O'Callaghan. Her public is also more stable in its imagined formation and less divergent from Habermas's public sphere. Where Gillespie particularly breaks with Habermas is in her insisting that the public sphere should be moved earlier in history, to the mid-seventeenth century -- a position she believes has now achieved relative consensus -- and in her rejecting Habermas's conception of the public sphere as predominantly male and exclusive of independent, private relations. In support of her revision of Habermas, Gillespie focuses on one of the few extant examples of the "father's legacy" genre written in the seventeenth century by Hugh Peter. Puritan minister and supporter of Cromwell, Peter wrote his text while in prison facing death for championing the beheading of Charles I. Peter's Legacy, addressed to his daughter, Elizabeth, was published in 1660 after his execution for high treason. Like O'Callaghan's published elegiac anthologies, which create the sense of a larger public accessing coterie secrets, Peter's Legacy creates the sense of strangers "overhearing" intimacies spoken between father and child. In doing so, Peter adopts the typically feminized subject position of someone only able to move into a public forum such as print by staging a dialogue with a member of the opposite sex.

     21. Specifically, Peter's publishers and Peter himself (who may or may not have known of the planned release of his work after his death) try to recuperate his reputation and authoritative male selfhood by drawing upon the "mother's legacy" tradition as well as (ironically given the crime of which Peter was accused) a "father's legacy" version of that tradition as exemplified in Charles I's Eikon Basilike. In these published legacy traditions, speakers construct a feminized and thus marginalized or, in the case of Charles actually maligned, public self through ostensibly private advice to their children. Peter's goal (and that of his publishers) was to employ this tradition to recuperate him as a stable and authoritative male self; but -- and this is key to Gillespie's opposition to Marcus Nevitt and those feminist authors who assume that the positioning of other within a text, especially of a female other, must occur at the expense of that other's independent selfhood -- Peter does not reconstitute himself at the expense of his daughter's autonomy. On the contrary, he reformulates himself as a man of honor precisely by imagining his daughter as herself a model subject within his ministerial public. His text thereby demonstrates the complex ways in which both male and female agency could work together within a public sphere.

     22. Peter's public sphere further creates a lineage that extends beyond the family to embrace the anonymous reader: "As the legacy [of his ministry] is passed from father to daughter," Gillespie notes, "the heavenly 'stream' flows from 'The Fountain' of God to Peter and then to Elizabeth. What is more, the text states, the transference of purity is only complete when the 'savory stream' of the divine is extended to 'you,' the reader through these familial ties: 'And with the same to you, except [sic] these Bonds'" (13). In passing on such lineage or legacy, "the public sphere itself is created through the necessary invocation rather than the exclusion of a female self" (13).

     23. Peter's Legacy, in sum, shows how both men and women can in fact gain a certain power by forming a different kind of collective public than that imagined by Habermas. Gillespie refers to this public as "a small and intimate 'private public'"; it is "comprised of individuals engaged in the shared act of shunning earthly pursuits and seeking greater commensurability with Christ" (5). Through self-abnegation, Peter's "private public" does not seek political power as does Habermas's public sphere; rather -- reminding us of Test's botanical public -- it invokes a personally cultivated "garden" (27, 28, 31). Indeed, Peter looks back fondly to the days when he served as religious leader of a small congregation in New World Massachusetts, imagining an intimate, voluntary association of believers untrammeled by political ambition or material goods (this despite the fact that the colony was a commercial venture and Peter one of the settlement's primary investors). Peter turns to his daughter not only to promote that vision of revised republication values, however idealized it might be, but also to encourage her to assume its leadership. But to inherit her father's ministry, Elizabeth must not only attain "a godly selfhood"; she must also, if guardedly and vigilantly, "become an informed and critical member of the public sphere of publication and debate" (22). In so doing, Peter's daughter would ideally realize a private public of informed godly selves that would be necessarily small in its removal from most social and political institutions but that would also be open to engaging and recruiting strangers through both ministry and print.

     24. Kris McAbee (Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock and formerly Assistant Director of UCSB's online English Broadside Ballad Archive or EBBA <http://ebba.english.usb.edu/>) is also very much interested in the private nature of a public. McAbee returns us to the print culture of late sixteenth-century England where O'Callaghan had situated the beginnings of her evolving elegiac anthology editions and printing publics. But McAbee's gaze is focused on a different kind of anthological form, the sonnet sequence, which, like the elegiac anthology, became a print fashion of the early modern period that widely disseminated a self-reflexive discourse productive of a distinct public. McAbee is thus very much working in terms of the emphasis by the UCSB 5 and by Warner on poetic world making and the circulation of discourse. "Sonnet culture's public stems from its own intertextuality," she notes, "and the resultant social space of subjects, readers, and writers of texts that surround (and include) sonnets" (6).

     25. Furthermore, just as O'Callaghan stresses the evolution of the elegiac anthology and its audience along the lines of the UCSB 5's emphasis on the "organic" nature of a public, so McAbee -- as most vividly evident in her online "The Sonnet Virus" project13 -- stresses how the sonnet (and thus its public) constantly evolves and mutates over time. Indeed, fueled by print, the figure of the sonneteer becomes a "metafictional character whose traits and qualities stem from the intertextual environment of sonnets" but who takes on a life of his own outside of the genre of the sonnet (14). The sonneteering figure thus becomes a diffusive cultural construct representative of a certain type of poetic figure who could traverse genres, from sonnets proper, to fictional narratives such as Thomas Nashe's Unfortunate Traveler, to dramatic plays such as William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Such a broad diffusion of the sonneteering figure relies upon a wide-reading public recognizing and sharing through print in the intertextual vernacular discourse of the courtly-love tropes of sonnets -- though this expansive audience is not necessarily, or even mostly, participant in what McAbee calls "a sonneteering public." In exploring the nature of that public, McAbee focuses particularly on one sonneteer's productions, though not on his sonnet sequence per se, since the ordering of the sonnets he produces keeps changing: Michael Drayton's Idea's Mirrour (1594), and its many reisssuings and remakings in print under its subsequently simpler title, Idea (1599, 1600, 1605, and 1619). Drayton exemplifies how authors of the period could capitalize on publication and its dissemination of a reflexive discourse about sonnets amongst the larger public in order to create a more private sonneteering public.

     26. As in the case of Peter's imagined community -- an idealized community which is built on self-abnegating individuals removed from political and commercial interests -- McAbee's very individual sonneteer can only define himself or herself in opposition to the larger public of relative strangers. This puts the sonneteer in a similar dilemma to that imaged by Peter for his daughter, Elizabeth. How can one make something that is intensely private into a public? If Elizabeth is urged by her father very cautiously to participate in building a congregation of the faithful through public ministry and print, the sonneteer even more ambivalently builds his sonneteering community through circulating printed paratextual and textual material. A public may necessarily be "a relation among strangers," as Warner would argue, but the sonneteer only half-heartedly or fictionally, and at times even hostilely, acknowledges this fact. Indeed, his or her self-definition relies on addressing and recruiting while at the same time keeping most strangers at bay because, once again, by definition (again recalling Peter's private public) s/he is alienated from the masses upon which s/he is paradoxically dependent. In this way, the inclusion of strangers in a sonneteering public is quite different from the inclusiveness imagined by Warner. Such inclusion is something of a necessary fiction: strangers must be invoked and addressed and even included, but they are more often than not invoked and addressed to be spurned. As McAbee puts it, "sonnet culture first imagines the public -- the public sphere that rejects, critiques, or misunderstands the efforts of the sonneteer -- and, in so imagining, defines for itself a public -- a specific subset community of relative strangers, posited against the outside world, who come together in the inspiration, composition, and circulation of sonnets among fellow poets as well as other consumers of verse" (2).

     27. At issue, then, is a paradox surrounding the sonneteer who very much fashions himself or herself as part of a recognized movement of sonneteering, with defining features, and yet seeks to be an individual distinct from most people who might join such movements. At stake is the making of something intensely private into a public -- that is, of incorporating the sonneteer's precious individuality into a sonneteering community of writers, patrons, and consumers. To do so requires the reflexive circulation in the period of an elaborate "fiction" of a public of strangers participating ironically in the alienation of the sonneteer -- a fiction that gathers momentum and crosses genres as it gathers publishing and public power.

     28. In each of the following pieces, we see the contributors rethinking Habermas and emphasizing the process of making publics through print or publishing which is as much a poetic-making as it is history-making. In true Helgersonian tradition, they treasure the printed word and its ability to make something larger than itself -- a public, however, multiply and individually defined. Like the larger MaPs public in its early and even in its later assemblages, these contributors constitute a multi-headed Hercules grappling to pin down the Protean definition of early modern publics. And that very ongoing Herculean effort is what makes them part or perhaps, in their special focus on print, a subset of the MaPs public. Together with the members of the larger and constantly evolving Making Publics team, they constitute a public united and defined by that very process of making and disseminating the nature(s) of early modern publics.

 

 

Go to this issue's index.

 

 

Notes

1 The link is to an "In Memoriam" to Richard Helgerson, hosted on UCSB's Early Modern Center website. At the bottom of the obituary, we provide a "weblog" for visitors to add their own tributary comments (also accessible through the link provided in this note).

2 I am grateful for the support and vision -- and most careful eye -- of the EMC's editor-in-chief, Crystal Bartolovich, in making this special issue happen.

3 <http://makingpublics.mcgill.ca/docs/fronthall/credenza/MaPs_Application_DetailedDescription.pdf>, accessed March 21, 2010.

4 See Making Publics in Early Modern Europe: People, Things, Forms of Knowledge, ed. Bronwen Wilson and Paul Yachnin (NewYork and London: Routledge, 2010); not insignificantly this MaPs publication is dedicated "In Memory of Richard Helgerson," with an apt quote from Spenser: "constant zeale, and courage bold." See also David Cayley's fourteen one-hour broadcasts on CBC Radio One, which aired April 26-30; May 5, 12, 19, 26; June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, 2010. A summary of the program and podcasts of each episode are available at: <http://www.cbe.ca/ideas/episodes/features/2010/04/26/the-origins-of-the-modern-public/>.

5 Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeios Society, trans. Thomas Burger with the assistance of Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989).

6 Habermas, Structural Transformation, 27.

7 <http://makingpublics.mcgill.ca/docs/fronthall/credenza/MaPs_Application_DetailedDescription.pdf>, 8.

8 Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 67-117. This seven-point definition of publics, of course, is springboard to Warner's larger investment in "counterpublics," those publics "constituted through a conflictual relation to the dominant public"; 118. A counterpublic, Warner underscores, "maintains at some level, conscious or not, an awareness of its subordinate status"; 119.

9 Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, 87-88; on this particular point by Warner, see also Eric Nebeker, "The Broadside Ballad and English Literary History, 1540-1700" (Dissertation, University of California Santa Barbara, 2009), 88-90.

10 Making Publics in Early Modern Europe, ed. Wilson and Yachnin, 7.

11 Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 3.

12 Peter Lake and Steven Pincus, eds., "Rethinking the Public Sphere in Early Modern England," in The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 19.

13 McAbee's "The Sonnet Virus" website <http://english.ucsb.edu/faculty/kmcabee/sonnet-virus.html> can be entered from her article, and consists of a series of motion charts that allow viewers to see at a glance the explosion in the popularity of sonnet sequences as well as interactively to track their evolution in size, themes, etc. over the period of 1555-1630. This modern visualization tool -- wherein we can utilize the virtual printing press of the web to participate in a kind of twenty-first century sonnet public -- allows us to see in fresh ways the reflexive dissemination of "sonnet speak" that occurred in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, producing its own kind of public.

 

 

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Content copyright © 2010 Patricia Fumerton.