Friday, January 28, 2011

Chapter Three: Prophets and their Readers

The copy edited manuscript is just about ready to go back to the press. Blogging may continue.

* * *

Chapter Three of Printing and Prophecy is in some ways one of the oldest sections of the book. In October 2005, before I had started serious archival research, I had a chance to present some initial thoughts at a conference in Berlin about how Lichtenberger's Prognosticatio treated its readers. I expanded and refined my thoughts after that, but the central concerns of the conference paper are still the ideas that drive Chapter Three.

Prophecy was popular with fifteenth- and sixteenth-century readers, but regarded nervously by the authorities; consequently, printers had to tread carefully in order to 1) get rich; and 2) avoid censorship (or worse). The printers who published Lichtenberger specialized in German-language literature at a time when that wasn't common, and so they understood the particular problems of printing literature in the vernacular. The printed text of the Prognosticatio and its paratextual and graphical presentation aim to control readers' reactions by dampening emotional impact and constructing a role for readers that is silent and passive. Other early printed prophetic and prognostic works are similar. Often they reframe the communicative function of books by presenting themselves not as messages from the author to his or her readers, but rather as messages delivered by the prophet to a king, which readers are permitted to overhear.

No comments:

Post a Comment