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Print in Age of Franklin

ENGL 241.401
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This course considers major developments in the history of print, reading practices, and publishing in the eighteenth century, when Benjamin Franklin was at the center of the rapidly changing society of Anglophone America.  We will build an interdisciplinary account of the media and institutions responsible for the dissemination of both literary and political writings.  What relationships did Americans develop with different kinds of printed artifacts – including newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, magazines, and bound books?  How embedded were American printers and readers in the broader Atlantic world?  We will consider how the history of print affected the most important historical and literary development of the era, including events leading up to the American Revolution; the rise of American Enlightenment figures like Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine; the emergence of early black Atlantic writers like Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano; and the rise of nationalism as print helped constitute a new imagined community after Independence.  This research seminar will involve hands-on experience with eighteenth century materials in the rich archives of Van Pelt and also the Library Company of Philadelphia, which Franklin founded in the 1730s.