By E. Burleigh
Throughout the prism of intimacy, Burleigh sheds mild on eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century American texts. This insightful research exhibits how the trope of the kinfolk recurred to provide contradictory photographs - either in detail widespread and frighteningly alienating - in which americans replied to upheavals of their cultural panorama.
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This is not an adoption premised simply on mechanistic reproduction of letters and words, as Warner would have it, but rather the adoption of a discursive model of writing that allows him to address public matters in a personal way and to render private instances material to the public. Thus what I find troubling about Warner’s account of Franklin is nearly identical to my reservations about Shevelow’s reading of the “female” periodical press. Warner’s commitment to a technical reification—at the level of the printing press and at the level of the burgeoning republic—predisposes him to read Franklin as indeed a “Representational .
In the first place, Franklin’s placement of an unsigned essay in the Pennsylvania Gazette can hardly be understood to be anonymous. As its publisher, his name appeared on the paper, and by 1732 his readers had had three years to learn to recognize his style. Alice Addertongue, in the second place, cannot be collapsed into anonymity either: she is a gendered and socially placed figure, whose attributes, even if chosen for comic effect, mark her as a particular rather than a universal person. This observation suggests a point of entry into discussions of print rationality.
On the other hand, the inclusion of “friends” and the suggestion of acting as a “mistress” who will host social affairs within this space suggest a lingering sense of the openness of the domestic, of its susceptibility to “turning public” with the entrance of conversation. So while this may seem like an instance of the sentimental family Shevelow sees Steele constructing in his “elevated” address to women, I’d like to linger over the public consequences of conflating private activity (eating breakfast) with public spaces (pleasure gardens).
Intimacy and Family in Early American Writing by E. Burleigh