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Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture) Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0521560269 ISBN-10: 0521560268 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture (Book 127)
  • Hardcover: 410 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521560268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521560269
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,845,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"They are 'dazzling' in the breadth of their allusions and striking in their wit and verbal originality. [It] is a rich book ... extensive in its courage and often penetrating in its analysis of a forgotten figure. If it sends new readers to Holmes's trilogy, one of the hidden treasures of American writing, then it will truly have done a service." Nineteenth Century Literature

Book Description

Peter Gibian explores the key role played by Oliver Wendell Holmes in what was known as America's 'Age of Conversation'. Holmes' multivoiced writings can serve as a key to open up the closed interiors of Victorian America, whether in saloons or salons, parlours or clubs, hotels or boarding-houses. Combining social, intellectual, medical, legal and literary history with close textual analysis, and setting Holmes in dialogue with Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Fuller and Alcott, Gibian radically redefines the context for our understanding of the major literary works of the American Renaissance.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Panopticonman on February 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
According to Gibian, two oral practices flourished in antebellum America: the lecture (or sermon) and the conversation. Lectures, such as Emerson?s "The American Scholar" and sermons, such as the abolitionist sermons of Henry Ward Beecher, are well-known examples of this hyper-speechifying, Chataqua-inspired heavy, Second Great Awakening era. But it was also known as the Golden Age of Conversation, and its greatest practitioner was generally agreed to be Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior.
Gibian is out to revise and enhance Holmes? current reputation on the basis of a new critical reading. Holmes was considered an important American writer until the 1920s when he was excised from the American canon by the modernists. They depicted him as willfully provincial (because he named Boston the "Hub" of the world), and elitist (he invented the term "Boston Brahmin"). Gibian attempts a rescue by noting that it one of Holmes? characters, a provincial, town booster named "Little Boston" in the "Autocrat of the Breakfast Table" who dubbed Boston the Hub. Gibian suggests that Boston Brahmin was an appellation meant to poke fun of the contemplative, upper class, pedigreed Bostonian who self-consciously removed himself from the hurly-burly of the common run. But much more than placing the "Hub" and "Boston Brahmin" in context, Gibian attempts to show that Holmes encouraged democratic conversation. That unlike his more elitist friends in the Saturday Club, he was a democrat, or a true republican, perhaps.
He does this by suggesting that Holmes? was equal parts house-breaker as house-keeper, invoking Mikhail Bakhtin?s theory of the carnival as appropriate to Holmes?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dark Romantic on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Gibian did something I would not have guessed possible: he connected all of Dr. Holmes's interests and accomplishments. The commonality, according to Gibian, is conversation and Holmes's mastery of it led him to poetry, novels, teaching, medicine, and placed him at the forefront of "table-talk." It sounded like a stretch to me at first but, I must admit, I was sold on the idea by the end of the first chapter.

This book is likely the greatest in-depth study of Holmes that can ever be written; not one stone was left unturned. To some extent, that depth is a negative for this book. So much information is jam-packed into its 350+ pages of text that it can be quite overwhelming. At times, some of the information he presents seems repetitive or even unnecessary. Don't consider this book a good "intro" to Holmes. In fact, I recommend reading at least "Elsie Venner" and "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table" before reading this book, if you can. Nevertheless, "Oliver Wendell Holmes and the Culture of Conversation" restores Dr. Holmes as an important figure of 19th-century America whose wide-ranging successes were tied together by his greatest strength: the art of conversation. It would be nice to see this book inspire future scholarship on Dr. Holmes.
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