Debates about the nature of the Enlightenment date to the eighteenth century, when Imanual Kant himself addressed the question, “What is Enlightenment?” The contributors to this ambitious book offer a paradigm-shifting answer to that now-famous query: Enlightenment is an event in the history of mediation. Enlightenment, they argue, needs to be engaged within the newly broad sense of mediation introduced here—not only oral, visual, written, and printed media, but everything that intervenes, enables, supplements, or is simply in between.
With essays addressing infrastructure and genres, associational practices and protocols, this volume establishes mediation as the condition of possibility for enlightenment. In so doing, it not only answers Kant’s query; it also poses its own broader question: how would foregrounding mediation change the kinds and areas of inquiry in our own epoch? This Is Enlightenment is a landmark volumewith the polemical force and archival depth to start a conversation that extends across the disciplines that the Enlightenment itself first configured.
Clifford Siskin is the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Professor of English and American Literature at New York University. William Warner is professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Clifford Siskin’s and William Warner’s This Is Enlightenment is nothing less than a major reconsideration of the nature of the historical Enlightenment, understood with forceful originality and historical specificity as an event in the history of mediation, an effect of the proliferation of new kinds of mediation in the eighteenth century. Twenty uniformly provocative essays explore this issue from an exciting variety of perspectives. This book will be essential reading for all those who seek to understand the Enlightenment’s origins and the conditions for its emergence as a form of thought rather than simply a set of ideas or a cultural moment.”
— John Richetti, University of Pennsylvania
“This is a game-changing collection of essays in the world of Enlightenment scholarship.”