A Nation of Speechifiers: Why (and How) We Should Listen to the Spoken Words of the American Past

Lecture Description

Nothing is more ephemeral than speech delivered during historical eras before sound recording. Yet the more we learn, the more important it appears that we study public speech as a unique cultural practice and form of communication—an important site for the articulation of ideas as well as an explosive and innovative mode for performance, criticism, and debate. This talk explores the significance of public speech in American history, and the rich interpretive potential for a field of study in which style (gestures, staging, facial expression) can tell us as much about substance (a speech’s text) when it comes to understanding how people of the past heard.

CATEGORIES

Oral history

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