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Slow PrintLiterary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture$
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Elizabeth Carolyn

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804784085

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804784085.001.0001

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Enlightenment Beyond Reason

Enlightenment Beyond Reason

Theosophical Socialism and Radical Print Culture

(p.221) Chapter 5 Enlightenment Beyond Reason
Slow Print
Stanford University Press

This chapter considers the proliferation of theosophy and related esoteric discourses in turn-of-the-century radical literature, arguing that these discourses functioned to critique the Enlightenment rationalism entrenched in radical conceptions of print literature and free print. Annie Besant, the most significant of the socialist theosophists, eventually became a worldwide leader of the Theosophical Society after abandoning the scientific secularism with which she had long been associated. The chapter considers Besant's career in socialist print alongside that of Alfred Orage, a prominent Leeds socialist theosophist who eventually became editor of the New Age. For Besant and Orage theosophical conceptions of subjectivity produced a quasi-mystical view of the author-reader relation, providing a model of authorship that elided the capitalist, individualist implications of the author function as it operated under the new media conditions of mass publishing. Theosophical discourse was a space within radical print where esoteric exclusivity purportedly met communal union—an ostensible but not untroubled compromise between a radical desire for universal equality and a radical reaction against mass culture.

Keywords:   theosophy, radical literature, Enlightenment rationalism, Annie Besant, socialist print, Alfred Orage

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