Publishing God: Printing, Preaching, and Reading in Eighteenth-Century America

Summer Seminar in the History of the Book

Seminar Leader(s): 

Peter Stallybrass
Michael Warner

Focusing on the eighteenth-century Anglophone colonies, the readings and discussions for the 2005 seminar will track the interplay between religious cultures and the circulation of print. Part of the aim of the course will be to defamiliarize the concept of “religion” and to correct the presentist assumption that religion plays a marginal or secondary role in the genesis and structure of the public sphere. The seminar will pay particular attention to how publicly circulated materials helped to inculcate habits of piety, and how rhetorics of piety elaborated public cultures among strangers. The leaders anticipate that this will bring scholars and librarians working in a variety of fields, including history of the book, public sphere theory, religious history, music history, art history, anthropology, literary studies, and cultural history into dialogue.

Drawing on the treasures of the AAS collection, the seminar will concentrate on practical case studies to open up major theoretical questions for each of the following topics:
the Bible in colonial culture
new histories of reading
evangelism, the so-called “Great Awakening,” uses of print, and the rise of an evangelical public
transformations of the New-England Primer in its long career
the circulation of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as a Protestant classic and icon Benjamin Franklin, in his complex relation to religion and religious markets

Discussion of these topics will be accompanied by general readings in the secondary literature and hands-on examination of materials from the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. For example, discussion of the cultures of the Bible and scripture reading will focus on specific psalms and passages from Genesis and Revelation, tracking their production, reproduction, and circulation in textual and visual forms.

About the Faculty: 

The co-leaders of the seminar are Michael Warner and Peter Stallybrass. Warner is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University. His most recent books include Publics and Counterpublics (Zone Books, 2002), and The Portable Walt Whitman (Penguin, 2003). He is also the author of The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Harvard University Press, 1990), which stemmed from his 1986-87 AAS National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Stallybrass is Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities, Director of the History of Material Texts, and Co-Director of the Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania. His most recent books are O Casaco de Marx (Marx’s Coat), published in Brazil in 1999, and Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory, written with Ann Rosalind Jones, winner of the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize in 2001. During the 2004-5 academic year, he holds a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on the material culture of reading, writing and note-taking in early modern England and colonial America and to prepare an exhibition with James N. Green on “Benjamin Franklin and the Book” for 2006, the 275th anniversary of the Library Company and the tercentenary of Franklin’s birth.

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