According to a recent poll of public address scholars, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Commonwealth Club address rates as a "great" speech. To date, though, that claim of greatness remains in a critical void; not a single critical study of the address exists. In this essay I make a first attempt to evaluate the speech, not exclusively along a grid of relative greatness, but for the interaction of form, content, and context. I argue that an initial memorandum on the address drafted by Adolf A. Berle provides an important critical prompt; that is, the speech attempts a critique and a redefinition of the key term "individualism." But that attempt at redefinition is ultimately a conservative representation, one that at first blush appears to be part of a new relationship between an activist federal government and the "individual," but is not. Rather, the "new individualism" espoused in the address represents a debilitating and pessimistic subjectivity overdetermined by the relationship among geography, history, and economic maturity.


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pp. 259-282
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