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 one’s 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. Examining books, pamphlets, and circulars, he merges theory and concrete analysis to provide a multilayered view of American cultural development.
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.
Arguing the inseparableness of print and culture, this is one of the most engaging books about eighteenth-century American publishing in decades.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Harvard University Press
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