Listening to Emerson's "England" at Clinton Hall, 22 January 1850

Wright, Tom F (2012) Listening to Emerson's "England" at Clinton Hall, 22 January 1850. Journal of American Studies, 46 (3). pp. 641-662. ISSN 0021-8758

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's delivery of his essay “England” at Manhattan’s Clinton Hall on 22 January 1850 was one of the highest-profile of his performance career. He had recently returned from his triumphant British speaking tour with a radically revised view of transatlantic relations. In a New York still in shock from the Anglophobic urban riots of the previous winter, media observers were prepared to find a great deal of symbolism in both Emerson's new message and his idiosyncratic style of performance. This essay provides a detailed account of the context, delivery and conflicting newspaper readings of this Emerson appearance. Considering the lecture circuit as part of broader performance culture and debates over Anglo-American physicality and manners, it reveals how the press seized on both the “England” talk itself and aspects of Emerson's lecturing style as a means of shoring up civic order and Anglo-American kinship. I argue for a reexamination of the textual interchanges of nineteenth-century oratorical culture, and demonstrate how lecture reports reconnect us to forgotten means of listening through texts and discursive contests over the meaning of public speech.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: E History America
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0185 By period > PS0201 19th century
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0400 Oratory
Depositing User: Tom Wright
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2012 11:51
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2017 17:10

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