Reading Gossip in Early Eighteenth-Century England by Nicola Parsons

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By Nicola Parsons

This booklet analyzes the relation among print cultures and eighteenth-century literary and political practices and, deciding on Queen Anne's England as a vital second within the public lifetime of gossip, deals readings of key texts that exhibit how gossip's interpretative options formed readers' participation within the literary and public spheres.

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Through her discussion of the power of print to effect social change – and particularly of its role in the development of enlightenment ideas – the assumption that print has a fundamentally public character was instituted as one of the principles of this field of study. 48 Throughout her argument, she implies that the meanings attached to printing a document are always the same. This understanding of print also underpins Habermas’s model of the public sphere. Like Eisenstein, Habermas assumes that printed texts are public documents by definition.

102 Much in the same way that the regulation of the press with laws of libel, which was intended to replace the secrecy legislated by the Licensing Act with a form of institutionalised openness, actually created the need for subterfuge, so the law also creates scandal. Scandal is what does not conform to the legal rules of evidence, what is considered improper, impolitic or, at the extreme, seditious. This demonstrates the fact that gossip and scandal stand in a very different relation to the public sphere.

38 All of Anne’s favourites – the Duchess of Marlborough, Abigail Masham, and the Duchess of Somerset – wielded considerably less power than their contemporaries believed. However, their significance lies precisely in the imagined extent of their influence. As a woman, Anne was imagined to be particularly susceptible to the whisperings of other women. ’39 That the spectre of female influence loomed so large was partly a result of lessons the public learnt from previous reigns. com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14 20 21 his Catholic wife, Mary of Modena.

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