Assistant Professor Carolyn Eastman’s book recipient of best first book award
Tue, July 27, 2010
Assistant Professor Carolyn Eastman
Professor Amy Greenberg, chair of the SHEAR selection committee for the James Broussard Best First Book Prize, presented the award to Eastman for her book, A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2009).
“This imaginative and persuasively-argued study restores oratory to its rightful place in the history of the Early American Republic, and offers a geneology of early American identity that integrates politics, manners, gender, and
race relations,” Greenberg said.
“In a series of sharp and elegantly-written case studies, Eastman develops the thesis that through an active engagement with oratory and print media, as speakers and writers, as well as readers, ordinary men, women, and even children came to imagine themselves as members of a shared public sphere in the first decades after the nation’s founding,” she continued.
Eastman describes A Nation of Speechifiers as “demonstrating the previously unrecognized extent to which non-elites participated in the formation of our ideas about politics, manners, and gender and race relations.”
In the process, these new citizens spoke themselves into a nation: The “establishment of new governments and constitutions in the United States was only one part of a larger project to foster unification and civic engagement by men and women…They had to learn to be American,” Eastman writes in her book.
Eastman’s research for her book was based on a novel, numerous texts, guides to oratorical speaking, Native American oratory, records of debating clubs, and curricula of the newly founded nation’s schools and academies. “It is written with a firm grounding in political and literary theory,” Greenberg continued. “This study offers a model for writing history that is at once sophisticated and clear, topically-focused, but broad in its implications.”
Eastman was especially pleased to be the recipient of this award and recognized SHEAR for the tremendous mentoring it gave her throughout her research for the book. “Receiving this prize from SHEAR was a terrific honor, especially because I received such good advice at their annual conferences throughout the development of this project,” she said.
“In fact, I gave my first conference paper at SHEAR at the very beginning of grad school because this organization is so well-known for offering strong support to graduate students and young faculty. So it was all the more enjoyable to attend the conference this year and see so many individuals whose scholarship was inspirational to me,” she said.
SHEAR was established in 1977 primarily for scholars that are committed to the research of the history of the United States between 1776 and 1861. According to its website, SHEAR’s “mission is to foster the study of the early republican period among professional historians, students, and the general public. It upholds the highest intellectual standards of the historical profession and encourages the broad diffusion of historical insights through all appropriate channels, including schools, museums, libraries, electronic media, public programming, archives, and publications.”
This year’s convention was held in history-rich Rochester, N.Y. It is home of the Susan B. Anthony House, Browns Race Historic District, Strong National Museum of Play, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography, Frontier Field, The Great Lakes Seaway Trail and many other venues of historic interest.
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