En utmanad elit : Politiken och litteraturen antar form i 1790-talets England
In the midst of Frances revolution, and the shockwaves it sent all over Europe and further, another revolutionary change took place. It was the threat of literature. This paper studies certain political actor’s solutions to the challenges that faced but also shaped politics and the technologies themselves, such as reading, in England during the 1790’s.
For many the spreading of literature was an end in itself. It held the enlightenment promise of a world runned by reason. But it was also a means. The intellectuals typically associated with the revolution in France, and the welcoming of it in England, – say Voltaire and Thomas Paine – were all well versed in the workings of literature. Pitted against the revolutionaries we usually find political actors such as Edmund Burke. This paper argues for more nuanced and historical understanding of the conflict, one that doesn’t give literature any inherent properties, as an a priori radical tool. We need to understand these technologies as something that there could be a different kind of solution to than repression, that Burke and his fellow hostiles to the revolution rather shaped these technologies in a mould that would fit their political cast. In this way there was, besides the ideological disputes, a struggle for the nature of literature. This took shape through a renewed interest in educating the people in institutions such as Sunday schools, and by press efforts like the magazine Anti-Jacobin; or, the weekly examiner, which form the basis of the study.
This paper argues that they changed the rules of literature. Therefore it is not the immediate introduction of a technology or media that necessarily is revolutionary – not Gutenberg, nor Arpanet – but when it is spread to the people and when certain protocols for the media is shaped, that is, when they are assigned a function. This paper is a study of the shaping of literatures protocols and with that the anti-Jacobins themselves.
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