Autobio of Ben Franklin – Thematic Analysis by P Chatelain


Upon reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and further discussing it in class there were a few tidbits of information that truly resonated with me. It gave me some deeper insight as to why we write, why it’s important to write, and how printing begins to change the whole playing field for written word.

  • Literacy is in some ways responsible for a creation of the middle class, as a distinction was forged between literates and illiterates, with literacy becoming more frequent in people who weren’t necessarily part of the higher classes. Reading began to be not just something the aristocrats did.
  • Habermas proposes a “public sphere” which is meant as the middle ground between the private sphere (domestic affairs, familial issues) and the authoritative sphere (courtly affairs, law, aristocracy).
  • There is a certain “first edition” aspect to life where living it is the “first edition” of the story, and upon writing down aspects of life it allows for a constant editing. Benjamin Franklin was a great proponent of the importance of correction and improvement. (As history has well-documented.)
  • Reading and writing, then, become a way to make a connection between the two spheres. A way for people of higher and lower class not only communicating but also establishing common-ground, or a mass media. Where writing was previously linked to a “effeminate world of leisure” it began to take a more cosmopolitan interest or a “male redaction in the official world of print word.”
  • Reading on your own is a way of resisting the arbitrary influence of public authority. Power is no longer in the hand solely of those in charge but also in the autonomy of individualized resistance by means of discourse, or dialogue. Each reader contributes to the Common Good. Personal interests are left out in the print world, thus the readership contributes their own personal interest which is just as important as any word included in the work. Written word is void of all partial or all private end.
  • Through reading you are part of a community that is not bound by the state. Reading connects the concerns and common interest of people who are in a different circumstance from yourself.
  • Reading is linked with moving past personal interest to emphasize everyone’s unique interest in the Common Good, the rationality of ideas and innovation.
  • As news gets more dense and streamlined it becomes notably more masculinized which causes it to lose key elements and become strictly geared to affairs (often the affairs of white men of affluence), which is why personal interest is left out in all good art.
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