Chapter

Introduction

in A Nation of Speechifiers

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226180199
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226180212 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226180212.003.0001
Introduction

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The Preamble to the United States Constitution opens with the phrase “We, the People of the United States,” which invokes a unified “people” who shared a singleness of mind and purpose. In addition to the creation of new governments and constitutions in the United States, men and women had to learn to be American in order to foster unification and civic engagement. Men and women interacted with public speaking and print as readers and listeners, and also as writers and orators. This book examines how non-elite men and women identified themselves as belonging to the abstract social body of “the public.” It argues that many non-elites were fully engaged in producing ideas about politics, manners, gender relations, and a host of other topics. Drawing on two scholarly literatures, both of which have drawn on Jürgen Habermas's conceptions of an “authentic public sphere” in which individuals discussed and considered politics, the book shows how print and oratory were thoroughly interdependent and mutually constitutive.

Keywords: public speaking; non-elites; gender relations; politics; public sphere; Jürgen Habermas; print; oratory; United States

Chapter.  6108 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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