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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

This Bright Luminary, the Press: Metaphor as Media Theory during the Romantic Printing Revolution
by Lee, Rachel, Ph.D., University of Rochester, 2013, 225; 3600417
Abstract (Summary)

In the history of printing, the Romantic period (1780–1830) is not an especially important milestone. Until the introduction of steam in the 1840s, the basic process of printing had remained relatively unchanged since its invention in the fifteenth century. However, it is during the Romantic period that the process of printing begins to evolve from an artisanal handicraft into a full-scale industrial process. Although this technological transition was slow and subtle, public discourse during the Romantic period reveals a surprisingly nuanced awareness of what it means to communicate in a system dominated by print. Among those theorizing the new culture of print, satirists and periodical editors are particularly invested in commenting on print culture, as doing so helps create an audience for their work. Although their materials are ephemeral (e.g., pamphlets and periodicals) and designed to sell, their printed productions also attempted to solve some of the cultural problems associated with the rise of print. In particular, paratextual elements (such as fantastical illustrations of printing presses and editorial introductions) convey important messages about the implicit and explicit contexts for the texts they accompany. The editorial introductions to brand new periodicals, which constitute the bulk of my analysis, are particularly rich veins of discourse since—by the nature of the genre—the editorial introduction argues for the text's relevance to its audience, a new nation of readers unused to the strange conditions of information overload. Furthermore, the editorial introduction ambitiously envisions the purpose of the new periodical not only in relation to the known problems and established protocols of print culture, but also to the imagined conditions of posterity. In order to relate such messages, the editorial narratives and satirical illustrations I study use powerful metaphors to convey the ascendency of the press in the public imagination. Within the metaphors established in these paratextual elements, particular visions of the Romantic printed present, the literary past, and the future of textual culture become possible. These visions, I argue, while not cohesive, nevertheless reveal something about the ways in which Romantic print culture invented itself as an exceptional period.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Eaves, Morris, Mannheimer, Katherine
Commitee: DiPiero, Thomas, Duro, Paul
School: University of Rochester
Department: Arts and Sciences
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature
Keywords: Book history, British Romanticism, Editorial theory, Media history, Print culture, Textual studies
Publication Number: 3600417
ISBN: 978-1-303-50514-0
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