- Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein
- Spinuzzi: Reading :: The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
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- The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
In , the National Coalition of Independent Scholars created the Eisenstein Prize , which is awarded biannually to members of the organization who have produced work with an independent focus. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Elizabeth Eisenstein. Elizabeth Eisenstein in as the first resident scholar for the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. Play media.
Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies after Elizabeth L. Eisenstein
Contemporary Authors. Retrieved February 5, Agent of Change. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. New York: Pantheon. Eisenstein" student paper, UCLA, , Student Digital Library, IS Archived from the original on Retrieved McNally, ed. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin, eds.
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Views Read Edit View history. But revised editions of scripture, which took increasing advantage of the greater linguistic learning available in printed language dictionaries, revealed inconsistencies and ambiguities in the texts which could not be easily resolved. Laying inherited scientific works side by side for the first time also pointed up discrepancies and contradictions. At the same time, the new ability to convey maps, charts, and pictures in a uniform and permanent way meant that older theories in cartography, astronomy, anatomy, and botany could be checked against new observations.
The use of this new technology produced unexpected results.
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How the differing reactions to the changes brought about by printing shaped subsequent European society is most clearly seen in Eisenstein's extended discussion of the role print culture played in shaping religious debates before and after the Protestant Reformation. There had been many earlier heretical movements within the Catholic Church before Luther's posting of his 95 theses. But the dissemination and greater permanence of print culture allowed his challenge to have a much greater impact. Moreover, the competitive nature of the printing industry, which was driven by a desire for sales, provided a new, more public outlet for controversies, and insured that what began as a scholarly dispute between theologians gained an international audience.
Reformation impulses and the printing industry fed off and accelerated one another in an age where religious materials were popular sellers. Differing Catholic and Protestant attitudes towards print culture resulted in two widely divergent historical paths. In Protestant lands, approval of vernacular bibles led to encouragement of greater lay literacy and a closer tying of biblical lore with developing national cultures. In Eisenstein's view, the differences in Catholic and Protestant reactions to printing were not due solely to theological differences, or to Protestants being more enlightened or trusting of their congregations.
Spinuzzi: Reading :: The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
Some individual Protestant leaders were hostile to the changes wrought by printing, particularly the wider dispersal of controversial books to lay audiences. But areas under Protestant control were generally less able to implement censorship of the presses than the more centralized governments of Catholic areas. One of the most important events in the shaping of early print culture was the successful rebellion of the Netherlands. In their small, semi-autonomous provinces, numerous printing presses sprang up that operated relatively free of censorship, and provided an outlet for authors, even within areas held by the Counter-Reformation.
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Books coming off the clandestine presses proved impossible for the Counter-Reformation to block, with significant impact for both religion and science. While the main focus of The Printing Press is limited to a relatively small group of already-literate elites, Eisenstein believes that the changes which print culture brought to the early modern world eventually transformed Western society at large.
By focusing on a fundamental shift in mentality, which came about due to a basic change in communication and collective memory, and the advent of uniform duplication, Eisenstein's book anticipates many areas of interest in recent intellectual history. Her conception of a cosmopolitan "Republic of Letters" created by the new printing technology that transcended national borders has been carried on by historians of the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century thought such as Dena Goodman. On the other hand, Eisenstein in expressed frustration that many of the artificial borders in intellectual history that she had tried to bridge in The Printing Press still dominated discussions of European development.
Studies of Renaissance and early European print culture generally remain unrelated to work on the Enlightenment tradition and eighteenth-century thought. According to Eisenstein, recent work on the printing industry, such as that done by Robert Darnton and Roger Chartier, has greatly expanded practical knowledge of book production, but these studies generally treat books chiefly as a commodity, with little reference to the ideas they contain, or the views held by their propagators. Eisenstein's approach in The Printing Press still holds potential as a promising approach to some of the more vexing questions of European early modern history.
While her interpretation idealizes somewhat the figure of the early printer and his print-shop, looking at the differing reactions to this new mode of knowledge dissemination as well as the individuals engaged in this new business continues to provide a concrete and challenging starting point for discussing the cultural and intellectual transformations of the early modern era.
The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
As she noted in her conclusion, "[t]o ask historians to search for elements which entered into the making of an indefinite 'modernity' seems somewhat futile. To consider the effects of a definite communications shift which entered into each of the movements under discussion seems more promising. Among other advantages, this approach offers a chance to uncover relationships which debates over modernity only serve to conceal" Jack Censor, and Jeremy Popkin, eds. Lydia Cochrane Princeton, NJ: ; and ed.
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