Cultural forms as transformative agents

The novel is a vital artefact in the development of the 18th century public sphere. Andrew Edgar, in “Habermas, The Key Concepts”, outlines Habermas’ view of the part played by the novel in constructing the culture. The novel originated as published ‘model letters’. Thus the style broke from the formality of classic literature. And the act of publishing otherwise private correspondence, breached the hitherto clear separation between private and public life (Edgar 2006). Through letter writing, middle class members, with more time for leisure, built up their skill in making and presenting a public argument, of “articulating publicly one’s inner emotions” (Edgar 2006). They were becoming producers of the discourse, as well as its audience. Conversations were being ‘exchanged’ in public places, such as political meetings, debates in coffee houses and other informal settings. And with this came the need to form and state a personal opinion on a range of areas that were opening up for public consideration. For example, British Parliament was a closed to the media up until the early 1800s, when the new profession of political journalism was given access to its proceedings. Out of this transformation, the idea of public opinion takes shape through public discourse, supported and informed by the media, (Edgar 2006).

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