Demosthenes in America

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:
Demosthenes in America

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In America, schoolbooks contained stories of the Greek orator Demosthenes who, by investing his speech with power and eloquence, earned fame for both Greece and the art of oratory. Demosthenes was glorified as the ideal civic orator, the “good man” whose selfless passion for virtue infused his speech with conviction and moved others to public action. This chapter looks at education and elocution in the early republic and shows that elocutionary education, with its early emphasis on cultivating sensibility, taught lay Americans to share views of public engagement long before such participation was defined solely in patriotic terms. Those prescriptive messages were evident not only in printed schoolbooks but also at the “exhibition days” when schoolchildren displayed their knowledge by declaiming short speeches and scenes before large audiences of parents and community members. Education combined with public speaking and nationalism created new ways of understanding the public and its leaders in the early American republic.

Keywords: schoolbooks; Demosthenes; oratory; public speaking; elocution; elocutionary education; nationalism; sensibility; America; exhibition days

Chapter.  13576 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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