“A Club Is a Nation in Miniature”

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:
“A Club Is a Nation in Miniature”

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This chapter focuses on the Calliopean Society, a young men's debating society formed to support its middling, upwardly mobile members at a formative period in their lives by helping them hone their skills in speech and social engagement and providing the social connections necessary to succeed in business. It examines how this group of young men underwent transformation in their collective understanding of themselves as members of the public. These men worked as writers and editors of a column for a literary magazine, the New-York Magazine, and patterned their literary styles after those of cultural elites to assert themselves as worthy commentators and mediators to the public. The chapter shows how their understanding of themselves and their self-portrayals in print were transformed by the particular events of the 1790s. It also demonstrates how elocutionary ideas about speech, writing, and public engagement extended beyond one's school years. When members of the Calliopean Society engaged in debate or oratory and criticized each other's writings, they relied on elocutionary theories and sometimes even drew their speeches or themes from schoolbooks.

Keywords: Calliopean Society; young men; debating society; New-York Magazine; speeches; writing; oratory; public engagement

Chapter.  13054 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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