Writing in Privacy to Mass Publics

The Pamphleteer as an Activist Writer


  • David Bebnowski LMU Munich




Martin Luther, Émile Zola, Mesut Özil, Pamphlets, Pamphleteering, Pamphleteers, Publics, Publicity, Privacy


The relationship between authors and their readers can be understood in terms of a dialectic between privacy and publicity, in that written media are consumed privately but at the same time constitute the foundation of publics. In this relationship, the literary format of the pamphlet, understood as a short form that expresses protest, is unique in that its function and content in voicing protest remain remarkably stable over time. Due to this stability in content, the format is able to change and be present in different media landscapes. Because of these traits, the pamphlets and pamphleteers referenced in this essay will be used as probes to fathom the historical dialectic between publicity and privacy. By drawing on pamphlets written by reformer Martin Luther at the onset of print publics, literary figure Émile Zola in developed mass publics governed by newspapers as leading media, and German footballer Mesut Özil as a public figure in digital publics, this paper intends to illustrate the relationship between pamphleteers and publics across time both historically and theoretically. This will demonstrate how pamphlets can be perceived as a becoming public of the private intentions of its pamphleteers in a very direct way. At the same time, they help us to understand who turns to pamphleteering and under which circumstances. Conversely, an analysis of pamphlets and their respective pamphleteers shows their historical boundedness as historic figures and is thus indicative of changing publics. Furthermore, studying pamphlets and pamphleteering invites us to conduct further research into the formation of public opinion and the nature of the democratic demos as an entity that shows deep fractures over time.




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How to Cite

Bebnowski, D. (2022). Writing in Privacy to Mass Publics: The Pamphleteer as an Activist Writer. Privacy Studies Journal, 1, 25–50. https://doi.org/10.7146/psj.vi.129999



Research Articles