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A Nation of Speechifiers

Making an American Public after the Revolution

In the decades after the American Revolution, inhabitants of the United States began to shape a new national identity. Telling the story of this messy yet formative process, Carolyn Eastman argues that ordinary men and women gave meaning to American nationhood and national belonging by first learning to imagine themselves as members of a shared public.

She reveals that the creation of this American public—which only gradually developed nationalistic qualities—took place as men and women engaged with oratory and print media not only as readers and listeners but also as writers and speakers. Eastman paints vibrant portraits of the arenas where this engagement played out, from the schools that instructed children in elocution to the debating societies, newspapers, and presses through which different groups jostled to define themselves—sometimes against each other. Demonstrating the previously unrecognized extent to which nonelites participated in the formation of our ideas about politics, manners, and gender and race relations, A Nation of Speechifiers provides an unparalleled genealogy of early American identity.

304 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2009

History: American History

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Rhetoric and Communication

Women's Studies

Table of Contents


Introduction: Messy Beginnings

Part 1   Making an American Public: Overviews

1          Demosthenes in America          

            From Sensibility to Nationalism in Elocutionary Education

2          Vindicating Female Eloquence

            Girls’ Oratory and the Rise and Fall of a Female Counterpublic

3          Mourning for Logan

            “Indian Eloquence” and the Making of an American Public

Part 2   Contesting Public Participation: Debating “the Public”

4          “A Club Is a Nation in Miniature”

            Young Men on the Make and Their Debating Societies

5          Saint Franklin

            Journeymen Printers and the Medium of Democratic Virtue

6          “Who’s Afraid” of Frances Wright?
            Media Debates about the Public and Its Spokesmen in 1829

Conclusion: The Ongoing Process of Making an American Public





Berkshire Conference of Women Historians: Berkshire Conference of Women Historians First Book Prize

Society for Historians of the Early American Republic: SHEAR Book Award

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