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The Practices of the EnlightenmentAesthetics, By (author)ship, and the Public$
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Dorothea von Mücke

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172462

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172462.001.0001

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Mobilizing a Critical Public

Mobilizing a Critical Public

(p.219) 12 Mobilizing a Critical Public
The Practices of the Enlightenment

Dorothea E. von Mücke

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines some of the writing and publication strategies that invoked and expanded existing conventions of the traditional republic of letters, making deliberate use of the vernacular, and consciously provoked and called attention to questions of authority and censorship. It begins with an analysis of Immanuel Kant's programmatic essay “What Is Enlightenment?” in the context of the academy competitions as a reflection on the expansion of the conventions of the republic of letters. It then discusses Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's so-called theological writings and how he postulates a radically different public from the corporate model he is criticizing. It interprets Lessing's writings on religion as active interventions in the position of authority claimed by theologians in matters of belief. It shows that the relatively deregulated, open boundary between the group that constitutes an audience or readership and the group that publishes positions, findings, opinions, and theories as polemicists, reviewers, scholars, or scientists constitutes the crucial background for Kant's and Lessing's model of a critical public that would further the cause of the Enlightenment.

Keywords:   republic of letters, authority, censorship, Immanuel Kant, Enlightenment, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, public, religion, audience, readership

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