Political theorists have critiqued historical accounts of the public sphere for neglecting the central role consensus plays within public sphere theory. This panel seeks to satisfy these concerns by providing a nuanced and historically grounded account of the meaning, function, and limitations of consensus within the early modern public sphere. What did consensus mean in the wake of the European Reformation? What were its limitations? How was it constructed, instrumentalized, and critiqued, either in literary or non-literary writing? Whose purposes did this serve? How might early modern perspectives on these questions help theorists today understand the function and limitations of the public sphere as a political concept?
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