EFS Professor Sylvia Brown on How Print Transformed our Lives

This series of lectures will present three case studies in seventeenth-century print culture as an evolving medium and marketplace for expressing conscience and defending dissident positions, identities, and texts.

12 March 2015

Have you signed a petition lately on change.org or sumofus.org or any of the proliferating websites offering petition templates? If so, did you think about how the electronic medium shaped the political effect or, vice versa, how the politics pushed the form? During next week's public Broadus Lectures, Prof. Sylvia Brown will take us on a journey into seventeenth-century print culture that promises to illuminate the relationship between the use of print and modes of dissent. While the Reformation may not have happened without the rise of print, could the rise of print have happened without dissent? Take the petition, that omnipresent form of political activism. Once an oral form in which an individual petitioned a monarch as he would God, dissenters, especially women, transform the genre by publically circulating their petitions in print. Published in broadsheets, appearing not just in London but in towns and villages, the petition takes on a separate life through print and becomes a tool of mobilization. We might say that contemporary digital formats make that circulation too easy, and thus detract from the political effects that the print form enables.

Many have compared the contemporary digital revolution to the print revolution of the early modern period: both unleashed new modes for circulating knowledge and both have been celebrated as inherently democratizing. Prof. Brown's lectures will caution us against such readings and, by following the specific circulation of seventeenth-century print by movements of dissent, especially religious dissent, she will show how local and contingent variables often determine how a text signifies. By following the circulation of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress all the way to Hawaii and Inuktitut, the audience will learn the surprising and quirky effects of cheap copies, bad translations and the many historical curiosities that challenge any technological determinism.

Information on the Broadus Lectures by Professor Sylvia Brown

Print Culture and Dissent: Seventeenth-Century Types

March 16, 18, & 20 2015
Humanities Centre L-1

Monday March 16

"Mary Love - circulation and rehabilitation"

Wednesday March 18

"Richard Baxter - production under suppression"

Friday March 20

"John Bunyan - the reproductive text"

To download a copy of the poster, click here.