“Placing Platform Culture in Nineteenth-Century American Life”
“Thinking Together concludes with Carolyn Eastman’s deft assessment of the nine previous chapters, as she contextualizes nineteenth-century oral performance within broader historical trajectories that show the changing roles of Western audiences. ‘It is vital to recognize,’ she writes, ‘that the importance of audiences and public opinion had grown significantly by the era described here, and that these developments coincided with the gradual democratization of education, politics, print culture, and religion.’ These changing roles for audiences, Eastman argues, provided the substrate for innovations in genres of performance that expected audiences to reason logically and to respond sensorially, that prompted deliberative engagement, and that reinforced or challenged social norms. Interactions between speakers and audiences, between audience members, and across venues offer a crucial focus for present-day scholars who seek to understand what Eastman succinctly labels the ‘process-oriented aspect of the development of major American ideas'” (pp. 18-19).