- Introduction: The Intermedia Restoration
This special issue approaches English Restoration texts and art forms from the standpoint of their media—that is, the technological processes and communication conventions at stake in their circulation and production. In so doing, it aims to extend the interdisciplinary conversation in media studies back in time. Scholarship on “mass media” or “the media” is typically dated to the advent of newspaper, radio, and television distribution at scale. “New media” studies, meanwhile, tends to designate the narrower purview of late twentieth and early twenty-first-century digital technologies.1 As scholars including Lisa Gitelman have argued, however, media are not exclusively modern and contemporary phenomena but “structures of communication” that are “socially realized” at any given historical moment.2 In their edited collection New Media, 1740–1915, Gitelman and Geoffrey B. Pingree “challeng[e] the notion that to study ‘new media’ is to study today’s new media,” given that “[a]ll media were once ‘new media.’”3 Fourteen years after this volume was published, during the rapid expansion of media studies across the humanities and beyond, 1740 remains something of an early limit. Media studies continues to slant toward the present, notwithstanding the obligatory glance to the early age of print that we find (to take one of any number of examples) in Asa Briggs and Peter Burke’s A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet.4
The Restoration—a period of media novelty upon media novelty, from periodicals and novels to genre painting, opera, and a newly cosmopolitan stage featuring female actors—warrants a fuller role in this conversation. We are familiar with the Restoration’s paradigm shifts in visual, acoustic, and linguistic representation, including new stage machinery and design. It has hardly been lost on us that the period of the rise of the newspaper and the founding of the Ashmolean Museum requires close attention to [End Page 3] “hypermediacy,” Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin’s term for communication steeped in media multiplicity and heterogeneity.5 Bolter and Grusin themselves cite the “hypermediacy of the baroque” as a precedent to the proliferation of media in postmodern culture.6 Yet we tend not to conceive of Restoration news, painting, music, theater, and other structures of communication as “media.” If that term is applied to pre-nineteenth-century communication at all, it is generally to written texts and above all to printed codices.
Indeed, we might say that media studies before the nineteenth century has been flattened into the history of the book. Book history has much in common with media studies: both have roots in textual studies and bibliography, both have grown and thrived along with the rise of the new materialism, and both focus rigorous attention upon material evidence. Like media studies, book history has proven compelling not least because its scope is defined by structures of communication themselves, as opposed to received disciplinary or generic boundaries. Book historians have expanded their purview well beyond the codex as such, to include every type of writing surface from manuscript epistle to printed broadsheet. Yet the close focus on archival sources that undergirds book history has remained strictly trained upon writing, to the exclusion of overlapping or closely related structures of communication.
As a result, we have been too quick to assume that written—and especially printed—media were more enduring, authoritative, or ascendant than theater, music, visual art, and other media. Take Clifford Siskin and William Warner’s edited collection This Is Enlightenment, for instance, which is framed around the idea that “Enlightenment is an event in the history of mediation” and is thus an important step toward a fuller history of pre-nineteenth-century media.7 Siskin and Warner’s volume does not advance a reductive use of “media”; on the contrary, it pursues a fuller and more careful historicization of the term.8 An essay by Michael Warner works to “move beyond the seductive but false clarity of ‘orality’ and ‘print culture,’” and an essay by Paula McDowell argues that, in the mid-to late eighteenth century, “literate groups’ ideas about oral forms and practices developed in an especially close dialectical relationship with ideas...