Threads in the Age of Revolution

At the end of each of our seminar meetings, each participant suggests a thread or theme that they’d like to see carried forward in our next meeting or throughout the year. This week, we are turning the threads into a post with the hope of starting the dialogue online. See the other threads in the comment section!

My Thread:
One of the articles that we read this week was Marlene Daut’s “The ‘Alpha and Omega’ of Haitian Literature: Baron de Vastey and the U.S. Audience of Haitian Political Writing,” this article really got me thinking about issues of self-representation in each of the revolutions. I’d like to talk more about the layers of self-representation in each revolution and the different narratives that become evident when we pay attention to the diversity. I’d also be grateful for suggestions for further reading or sources.

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6 Responses to Threads in the Age of Revolution

  1. Jane Kamensky says:

    Such a great discussion last night. I was very struck by something Trish Loughran said: “Let me tell you the details, and you’ll be less impressed” by the coherence and majesty of [American] nationalism. I’m eager to keep thinking about what gets found in the details as well as what gets lost. Which devils are in which details for which Revolutions?

  2. Jeanna Kadlec says:

    I appreciated that keywords of the seminar like “global imaginary” and “representation” were put on the table and fleshed out in discussion, and I would like to continue integrating those concepts as we move forward.

  3. sohrabi says:

    Two things:
    1. Putting together Loughran and Rosenfeld’s discussions of Common Sense (and to some degree Pasley’s), I’m thinking about the link between material history and intellectual history. What does the former illuminate about the latter since clearly it’s not a one-to-one link?

    2. I’m fascinated by the different place American, Haitian, and French revolution historiographies are, and how these historiographic concerns are shaping the scale of the “events” each field is emphasizing (local vs. national is the most obvious one.)

  4. Cassandra Berman says:

    In thinking about the ways in which the work of all three of our guests intersect, I’d like to keep pondering the non-textual significance of print culture – that is, how a consideration of more than just content can enrich our understanding of the public sphere and revolutionary ideologies. For example: how the legacy of Common Sense was shaped by its reputation as a best-seller – not just its textual message; how newspapers during the “revolution” of 1800 served as important bases for political parties; how the works of Vastey conveyed to outsiders that Haitian independence could be a manifestation of the Enlightenment. Considered more broadly, what important work does printed material do during times of political turmoil – beyond the textual message these works contain?

  5. Haram Lee says:

    I want to think more about the relationships between print, national identity and democracy. If print plays a major role in building national identity (as Benedict Anderson argues), it seems to me that both Trish Loughran and Jeffrey Pasley deconstruct Anderson’s thesis in their own ways. Arguably, not only Loughran but also Pasley can be seen to cast doubts on the print’s role in making ‘national’ identity, if we understand national identity as involving the sense of national unity. What he seems to imply is that, if print enabled the people of the United States to have ‘national’ identity (i.e. the sense of unity with people across the nation) for the first time in the US history, then that ‘national’ identity was, in fact, the identity as a Republican or a Federalist. In other words, American national identity was, he implies, factional in the beginning. Then, I wonder whether factionalism is embedded in not only American national identity but also in the US democracy (or representative democracy in general) that operates upon the decision-making by the majority.

  6. John Hannigan says:

    I was struck by the fact that the high circulation numbers for Common Sense are largely due to print wars in Pennsylvania: competing Philadelphia printers Robert Bell and William Bradford were responsible for fifteen of the pamphlet’s twenty-five printings. While Common Sense was certainly a popular pamphlet (the fact that it was printed ten times outside of Philadelphia attests to this), it seems to me that its high circulation in Philadelphia might owe more to the battle between Bell and Bradford than it does to demand. Without Bell and Bradford, how many editions of Common Sense would exist? Would it still have the same legacy? When we discuss the power of print culture to convey ideas and shape the global imaginary, we should not lose sight of the real world conditions in which these materials are created. In other words, print culture (and material culture in general) is intimately tied to the environment in which it is created. When we talk about the reputation and legacy of a work, it is easy to overlook this.

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