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This Is Enlightenment

Debates about the nature of the Enlightenment date to the eighteenth century, when Imanual Kant himself addressed the question, “What is Enlightenment?” The contributors to this ambitious book offer a paradigm-shifting answer to that now-famous query: Enlightenment is an event in the history of mediation. Enlightenment, they argue, needs to be engaged within the newly broad sense of mediation introduced here—not only oral, visual, written, and printed media, but everything that intervenes, enables, supplements, or is simply in between. 

With essays addressing infrastructure and genres, associational practices and protocols, this volume establishes mediation as the condition of possibility for enlightenment. In so doing, it not only answers Kant’s query; it also poses its own broader question: how would foregrounding mediation change the kinds and areas of inquiry in our own epoch? This Is Enlightenment is a landmark volumewith the polemical force and archival depth to start a conversation that extends across the disciplines that the Enlightenment itself first configured.

568 pages | 24 halftones, 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2010

History: European History, History of Ideas

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature, Romance Languages


“Clifford Siskin’s and William Warner’s This Is Enlightenment is nothing less than a major reconsideration of the nature of the historical Enlightenment, understood with forceful originality and historical specificity as an event in the history of mediation, an effect of the proliferation of new kinds of mediation in the eighteenth century. Twenty uniformly provocative essays explore this issue from an exciting variety of perspectives. This book will be essential reading for all those who seek to understand the Enlightenment’s origins and the conditions for its emergence as a form of thought rather than simply a set of ideas or a cultural moment.”

John Richetti, University of Pennsylvania

“This is a game-changing collection of essays in the world of Enlightenment scholarship.”

Literature and History

Table of Contents


This Is Enlightenment: An Invitation in the Form of an Argument

Clifford Siskin and William Warner

Mediation: A Concept in History

Enlightening Mediation

John Guillory

Where Were the Media before the Media? Mediating the World at the Time of Condillac and Linnaeus

Knut Eliassen and Yngve Sandhei Jacobsen

Mediation and the Division of Labor

Peter de Bolla

Transmitting Liberty: The Boston Committee of Correspondence’s Revolutionary Experiments in Enlightenment Mediation

William Warner

Modes and Codes: Samuel F.B. Morse and the Question of Electronic Writing

Lisa Gitelman

Enlightenment: Evidence and Events

Mediating Information, 1450–18

Ann Blair and Peter Stallybrass

Mediated Enlightenment: The System of the World

Clifford Siskin

Romanticism, Enlightenment, and Mediation: The Case of the Inner Stranger

Robert Miles

The Present of Enlightenment: Temporality and Mediation in Kant, Foucault, and Jean Paul

Helge Jordheim

The Strange Light of Postcolonial Enlightenment: Mediatic Form and Publicity in India

Arvind Rajagopal

Proliferation: Mediation and Print

Mediating Media Past and Present: Toward a Genealogy of “Print Culture” and “Oral Tradition”

Paula Mcdowell

Mediating Antiquarians in Britain, 1760–1830: The Invention of Oral Tradition, or, Close-Reading before Coleridge

Maureen Mclane

Mediating le philosophe: Diderot’s Strategic Self-Representations

Anne Fastrup

Novel Knowledge: Judgment, Experience, Experiment

John Bender

The Piratical Enlightenment

Adrian Johns

Effects: Emergent Practices

Financing Enlightenment, Part One: Money Matters

Mary Poovey

Financing Enlightenment, Part Two: Extraordinary Expenditure

Ian Baucom

“The Horrifying Ties, from which the Public Order Originates”: The Police in Schiller and Mercier

Bernhard Siegert

The Preacher’s Footing

Michael Warner

Mediation as Primal Word: The Arts, the Sciences, and the Origins of the Aesthetic

Michael Mckeon



List of Contributors


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