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By Carolyn Eastman

ISBN-10: 0226180190

ISBN-13: 9780226180199

Within the many years after the yankee Revolution, population of the us started to form a brand new nationwide identification. Telling the tale of this messy but formative method, Carolyn Eastman argues that normal women and men gave desiring to American nationhood and nationwide belonging by way of first studying to visualize themselves as contributors of a shared public.She finds that the construction of this American public—which in basic terms steadily constructed nationalistic qualities—took position as women and men engaged with oratory and print media not just as readers and listeners but in addition as writers and audio system. Eastman paints bright snap shots of the arenas the place this engagement performed out, from the universities that advised teenagers in elocution to the debating societies, newspapers, and presses in which varied teams jostled to outline themselves—sometimes opposed to one another. Demonstrating the formerly unrecognized volume to which nonelites participated within the formation of our principles approximately politics, manners, and gender and race family, A country of Speechifiers presents an unprecedented family tree of early American id.

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By the 1780s, schoolbooks had become the primary venue for transmitting elocutionary exercises. In fact, virtually all of the many schoolbooks published in this era disseminated that information in the same way. By far the most prevalent type of book used in American schools can be termed an “elocutionary schoolbook” (or “speaker” in eighteenth-century terms): these books provided suitable passages to be read aloud and sought to instruct children in the tenets of elocution, punctuation, and grammar.

Apparently the republic depended more on children’s good speech habits than on what came to be called “civics,” since information about the nation’s history, its founding texts, or the people’s shared characteristics was almost entirely absent from American schoolbooks and children’s reports of school curricula before the 1810s. Instead, teachers and schoolbooks alike concentrated on refining children’s characters, deportment, and speech as important elements of preparing them to participate in society.

Beyond that, it taught them to be critics, demanding the same high standards from the public speakers that they in turn observed. Taken together, the combination of elocutionary rules, school exhibitions, and schoolbook lessons transmitted an understanding of belonging to the public that fostered engaged behavior by ordinary people. The ideal of an educated citizenry thus dovetailed with apolitical understandings of public comportment. And indeed, ordinary American youths scrutinized the performances of public orators, from ministers’ sermons to Fourth of July speeches; letters and diaries are replete with careful analyses of the speakers they observed, detailed analyses that used extensive elocutionary vocabularies.

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