Winter 2011, 42:1, pages 26 - 43
Arguing the Courtship of Elizabeth and Alençon: An Early Modern Marriage Debate and the Problem of the Historical Public Sphere
Abstract: This essay analyzes one moment that has forced a reconsideration of the historical public sphere: the debate between John Stubbs and Queen Elizabeth I of England over her proposed marriage to the French Duke of Alençon. Stubbs adopted an argumentative strategy in which scripture served as a source of universal truth on which to base arguments about politics. Unable to allow such a strategy to undermine her own authority, Elizabeth's response asserted the communicative, rather than transcendent, nature of argument. Reading the debate in this way, in turn, calls into question a historical, developmental model of rationality and the public sphere. Ultimately, I argue, the public sphere does not develop as a radical emergence to be documented, but instead operates as a rearticulation of argumentative positions that are consistently and always available.