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Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia) Paperback – August 28, 2000


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Editorial Reviews

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In this careful and intelligent work, Gustafson returns oratory to its important political and cultural role in early America ."American Studies"

Review

In this careful and intelligent work, Gustafson returns oratory to its important political and cultural role in early America .--American Studies|Gustafson's dramatic work convincingly and brilliantly shows how black, white, and Native American figures used the spoken word to challenge social hierarchies built on textual discipline. This is a major book on the dialogue of the semiotics of speech and that of text or print culture. It will be used constantly by scholars in multiple disciplines.--Jay Fliegelman, Stanford University|Gustafson not only provides a new context for thinking about the verbal performances of prominent patriarchs like Cotton, Edwards, and Adams, but beautifully realizes the subversive potential of oral performance for outsiders like Sarah Edwards and Samson Occom.--Janice Knight, University of Chicago|Gustafson's contribution is lively, imaginative, and informed. . . . The novelty of her work lies in her inclusive vision, for she visits not only those whom we might expect . . . but also long silenced voices. . . . Rich and provocative.--Journal of American History|[Gustafson] provides an intensive examination of the Colonial speech. . . . [and] brings readers to the brink of other scholarly inquiry not yet begun.--Choice|Sandra Gustafson's Eloquence Is Power is a remarkable achievement. Her learned, closely observed analyses of oratorical performances . . . invite scholars to reassess the emphasis we have placed on written texts in early American civic culture.--Richard D. Brown, University of Connecticut|[This book] makes an innovative contribution to the history of the book in early America.--William and Mary Quarterly|An innovative contribution to the history of the book in early America. . . . [An] original and provocative conception of early American literature.--William and Mary Quarterly
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Product Details

  • Series: Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (August 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807848883
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807848883
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,327,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mp on April 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
Sandra Gustafson's 2000 book, "Eloquence Is Power," seeks through historical reconstructions of key figures and key moments, to recuperate the dramatic influence of oratory in the formation of America. Complementing and complicating the established American mythos surrounding founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Gustafson explores the dynamic and dialectic of what she terms the 'performance semiotic' and its impact on American culture from its earliest figurations to the present day. Gustafson defines the performance semiotic as the historical interplay between speech and text, which 'performs social conflict,' setting the stage for a broader notion of cultural interplay between racial and gendered identities, and between religious and political sensibilities. Utilizing a broad spectrum of theoretical frameworks, Gustafson incorporates models of gender performativity, critical race studies, and generous historical contexts to situate her reevaluation of American history.
"Eloquence Is Power" cleverly constructs its arguments in the framework of the performance semiotic: each chapter focuses centrally on two, sometimes three key figures at a particular historical moment who enact the struggle for linguistic primacy and social control through, and increasingly, in the mutual involvement of orature and literature. Eschewing the popular teleological view of a cultural progression from `savage' speech to 'civilized' writing, Gustafson claims that not only are the two insistently linked throughout the history of early America, but that each develops with notable contributions from Euro-American, Native American, and African-American, and sources. The central question of the book concerns power relations and their respective derivations.
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Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America (Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia)
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