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Coverage for grant FA-37312-02

Speaking Democracy: Civic Performance in the Antebellum United States
Sandra Gustafson, University of Notre Dame

Grant details:

Author(s): A. T. Hale, University of Puget Sound
Publication: Choice Reviews Online
Date: 11/1/2011
Abstract: This timely book traces and attempts thereby to resuscitate the centrality of deliberative dynamics to American political and cultural life. Gustafson (English, Univ. of Notre Dame) establishes first that American republicanism relied on deliberation--as derived from classical and religious models--as antidote and complement to the compulsions of rhetorical suasion. Then, grounding her project in the republican oratory of Daniel Webster and his contemporaries, Gustafson assembles a "literary version of a deliberative poll" of antebellum authors, from Cooper and Child to Apess and Walker, on the possibilities and limits of deliberative processes; these figures "diagnose[d]" the antebellum deliberative crisis occasioned by slavery and sought to address the nation's travails through a variety of politicized aesthetics. The great strengths of this book are the comprehensiveness and nuance of Gustafson's analysis and the relevance of her project to a nation poised, then as now, on the brink