Michael Baysa, Princeton University
Carpenter Fellow in Early American Religious Studies
“Print, Publics, and Puddings: Constraints on Religious Publications in Eighteenth-Century America”
Print, Publics, and Puddings explores the racial and religious constraints of Anglo-Protestant print production in the British colonies. Despite the growth of printing opportunities for Sephardic Jews, African American Protestants, Native American Christians, and Catholic converts by the eighteenth-century, authors coming from these communities still struggled to break into the Protestant public sphere. The project contends that even without the authority to actively censor texts from print, Anglo-Protestant missionaries and ministers exerted indirect influence on print curation through their continuing relationships with printers, booksellers, and other print intermediaries. Attentive to these dynamics, authors circumvented the printing press to publish their works by other means, whether through manuscript circulation or scribal publication. By analyzing the texts that could not and would not be published by the press, the project complicates the technological determinism by scholars who write about the democratizing promise of print for religious communities, and addresses broader questions about marginalized authors, secularization narratives, and the utility of concepts like the public sphere.