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Spheres of Influence

Intellectual and Cultural Publics from Shakespeare to Habermas

Alex Benchimol and Willy Maley

This book explores the ways in which intellectual and cultural publics from the early modern period to the postmodern present have actively constructed their cultural identities within the social processes of modernity. It brings together some of the most compelling recent writing on the public sphere by scholars in the fields of literary history, cultural studies and social theory from both sides of the Atlantic. Taken together, the essays in this collection offer a major re-examination of recent scholarship on the theory of the public sphere as developed by Jürgen Habermas. They also stand as a collective effort both to interrogate and to extend this influential model by exploring modern forms of intellectual and cultural activity in all their rich diversity and ideological complexity. Contributions range from the divided inheritance of Shakespeare publishing history to the new forms of mass-mediated cultural experience in contemporary Britain; from attempts at cultural regulation in the literary public sphere of the Romantic period to the postmodern political conflict played out in the American public sphere of the 1990s; and from varieties of religious dissent to modes of postcolonial criticism. The book furthers the dialogue between academic methodologies, fields and periods, and presents readers with a contested narrative of the key cultural and intellectual practices that have made up our modern world.
Contents: Alex Benchimol/Willy Maley: Introduction: circling the public sphere – Joad Raymond: Perfect speech: the public sphere and communication in seventeenth-century England – Thomas N. Corns: The contested spheres of Civil War radicalism: camps, common land and congregations – Andrew Murphy: Publicizing Shakespeare: the canonical text and the public sphere – Alex Benchimol: Cultural historiography and the Scottish Enlightenment public sphere: placing Habermas in eighteenth-century Edinburgh – Paul Keen: When is a public sphere not a public sphere?: Thoughts from 1795-1796 – Jon Mee: Policing enthusiasm in the romantic period: literary periodicals and the ‘rational’ public sphere – Craig Calhoun/Michael McQuarrie: Public discourse and political experience: T.J. Wooler and transformations of the public sphere in early nineteenth-century Britain – Jim McGuigan: The cultural public sphere – Nancy Fraser: Politics, culture, and the public sphere: toward a postmodern conception – Willy Maley: Peripheral vision: black public intellectuals and the postcolonial paradigm.