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 (03). pp. 641-662. ISSN 1469-5154

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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
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of American Studies (former - to 2014)
Depositing User: Tom F. Wright
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2011 10:05
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2022 10:31
DOI: 10.1017/S0021875812000710


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