Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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pp. i-vi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-13

Personal narrative—the memoir form—appears to be growing in popularity as a contemporary publishing phenomenon. James Atlas observed in 1996 that “if the moment of inception is hard to locate, the triumph of memoir is now established fact. Consider the evidence: nearly two dozen memoirs are being published this spring, with more to come, supplementing the 200 titles—by one book review editor’s estimate— published last year.”

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Hand Piety; or, Operating a Book in Early New England

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pp. 14-33

Started during his Harvard training, the personal miscellany of third-generation minister Thomas Weld opens with a set of anecdotes that reflect his values of pithiness, piety, and deft rhetoric. One points us in particular to a minister’s memory theater and sermonic performance: “A man preached a Sermon in commendation of the Saints. He began thus, ‘I will begin with St Crysistome, his excellence is such that I will place him in the first seat of the church.’

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Poor Performance: Incompetence in Conversation, Manuscript, and Print in British America

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pp. 34-48

While incompetence in communication, whether in speaking or writing, has a self-evident quality to any witness of a poor performance, the way discursive performances fall short of adequacy has differed over time. Verbal awkwardness, argumentative illogic, rhetorical excess, conversational vagrancy, and weak induction all have histories.

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Addressing Maps in British America: Print, Performance, and the Cartographic Reformation

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pp. 49-72

I begin with two examples of early American cartographic sponsorship. In 1747, British America’s best-known printer and bookseller, Benjamin Franklin, enthusiastically placed a repeat order for Henry Popple’s Map of the British Empire in America (1733; fig. 3.1).1 At the same time, Franklin’s account books show him supporting with equal excitement the surveyor and map engraver Lewis Evans, whose General Map of the Middle British Colonies (1755; fig. 3.2) Franklin would go on to praise in his personal correspondence and the Pennsylvania Gazette.2

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Print, Manuscript, and Staged Performance: Dramatic Authorship and Text Circulation in the New Republic

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pp. 73-96

After a decade of confusion and hesitancy following the Revolution, theater in America gained sufficient momentum to be accepted as a professional entertainment in most cities of size in the United States. By 1800, American spectators from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Savannah, Georgia, could expect to see some manner of staged drama enacted in taverns or in older or newly built theaters in small and large towns throughout the Atlantic states.

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From Performance to Print in the Native Northeast

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pp. 97-117

In 1773, Mohegan missionary Joseph Johnson (1751–77) wrote in a letter meant for public circulation, “Be it known to all in general, that I am Properly an Illiterate man” (179). Johnson was apologizing in advance for his writing style to anyone who might someday happen upon his manuscripts. He was a man who read the Bible and religious tracts regularly, turning often to Richard Baxter’s Saint’s Everlasting Rest after long days of teaching and working in the fields.

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Beyond the Printed Word: Native Women’s Literacy Practices in Colonial New England

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pp. 118-136

It has long been assumed in the study of literacy and print culture that Native women in the colonial world did not participate in literary or even literate circles. Certainly nobody has yet uncovered a Native woman poetess along the lines of a Phillis Wheatley or a Lucy Terry. We have not yet uncovered any seventeenth- or eighteenth-century Native women diarists or essayists along the lines of Native men such as Samson Occom or Joseph Johnson.

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Sarah Wentworth Morton and Changing Models of Authorship

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pp. 144-159

Bostonian Sarah Wentworth Morton was recognized as among the most accomplished American women of letters of the post- Revolutionary generation and was dubbed “the Sappho of America” by the Massachusetts Magazine in 1791 (“To Poetical Friends”). A speaker at the 1805 Phi Beta Kappa meeting included her in a short list of prominent American writers, claiming that although his fellow citizens were not rewarding their best writers financially, Morton’s “rich Epic strain” would garner praise from subsequent generations (T. Harris 197).

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The Path of a Play Script: Louisa Medina’s Nick of the Woods

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pp. 153-174

In the late 1830s, the Bowery Theater in New York City commissioned its in-house playwright, Louisa H. Medina, to convert a recent popular novel into the melodrama Nick of the Woods. It became instantly successful across all strata of audience as a new spectacular play and continued to appear fairly regularly in theaters around the United States as well as England and Canada.

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“The Speaking Eye and the Listening Ear”: Orality, Literacy, and Manuscript Traditions in Northern New England Villages

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pp. 175-199

In November 1837, the young adults of the small hill town of Dublin, New Hampshire, gathered together to create the constitution for a new association. They began the preamble with a sweeping declaration: “The improvement of the mind should be regarded as the grand aim and purpose of life. To the attainment of this object every other pursuit should be made to subserve.” The Dubliners were in no doubt about the best means of improving their minds. Their preamble continues: “Although much may be effected in this cause by individual exertion, still far more may be accomplished by associated action.”

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Print Poetry as Oral “Event” in Nineteenth-Century American Periodicals

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pp. 200-219

In his 1996 article “Why American Poetry Is Not American Literature,” Joseph Harrington argued that the study of American literature had come to mean the study of American fiction. Since then, a body of scholarship, including books by Kirsten Silva Gruesz (Ambassadors of Culture), Paula Bennett (Poets in the Public Sphere), Mary Loeffelholz (From School to Salon: Reading Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Poetry), and Angela Sorby (Schoolroom Poets: Childhood and the Place of American Poetry), has challenged the neglect of nineteenth-century American poetry by enacting the kind of “cultural” work that largely had been absent from poetry studies.

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Silenced Women and Silent Language in Early Abolitionist Serials

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pp. 220-239

I spent my first day as a Peterson Fellow in April 2003 working in the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) Reading Room in Worcester, Massachusetts. On my second day of fellowship, I wrote in my research diary:

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Straddling the Color Line: The Print Revolution and the Transmission, Performance, and Reception of American Vernacular Music

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pp. 240-254

“Think of what we miss if we do not listen to the heard past,” Mark Smith writes in his Listening to Nineteenth-Century America (2001). “New storylines—causal and explanatory, begin to emerge once we start to listen to hearing” (262). These words and others by those who recently have contributed to the emergent field of the history of the senses immediately suggest ways to investigate hitherto veiled topics in the history of American music.1

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Secret in Altered Lines: The Civil War Song in Manuscript, Print, and Performance Publics

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pp. 255-275

Alan Trachtenberg has famously argued that the American Civil War served as “a proto-industrial experience, introducing a new scale in organizational systems and overturning older individualistic and local patterns” (Reading 110; see also Incorporation). The Civil War, the argument goes, taught America how to line up. This narrative of national incorporation in the postwar period is compelling; however, it begs the question, how did this “experience” play out during the war?

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The State between Orality and Textuality: Nineteenth-Century Government Reports and “Orature”

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pp. 276-296

This essay’s starting point is the much-celebrated Lewis and Clark expedition. In late September 1806, after three years of traveling in the West, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their Corps of Discovery arrived in St. Louis. They immediately began informing their superiors and the public at large about their extraordinary voyage.

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Authentic Revisions: James Redpath and the Promotion of Social Reform in America, 1850–90

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pp. 297-318

The abolitionist and reformer James Redpath (1833–91) is today best known for his work with the Boston Lyceum Bureau (later Redpath Speakers’ Bureau), the first professional booking agency for lecturers in the United States. Redpath headed this agency from 1868 to 1875, during which time he amassed an impressive roster of speakers, including Susan B. Anthony, P. T. Barnum, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain.

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Reading the Image: Visual Culture as Print Culture and the Performance of a Bourgeois Self

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pp. 319-340

In 1861, the photographer John Moran produced a series of stereographic portraits of the family of his Philadelphia patron, the antiquarian Ferdinand Julius Dreer. In two of the views resulting from that commission, the members of the Dreer family are positioned in a home library that signifies at once both domesticity and literacy.

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The Emerging Media of Early America

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pp. 341-365

Emerging media is a phrase commonly used to describe the novel electronic media of today. The electronic archives that are rapidly becoming available will increasingly transform not only what scholars of early America read and teach but how those texts are read and taught. Electronic resources give us new tools for reading and teaching early texts; they also encourage us to ask new questions of the texts.

Contributors

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pp. 367-368

Index

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pp. 369-393