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December 22, 2009


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Sarah Ludington

This is fascinating stuff Al. Were the student addresses oral examinations -- ie, read out loud to examiners to earn a degree? Or were they written and submitted to teachers? (And I wonder whether oral vs. written presentation would have made a difference in the opinion expressed).


Thanks for asking, Sarah -- the student orations were delivered off a prepared text (and at least for UNC, we have some of those addresses). Of particular interest to you and Mitu Gulati will be one from the late 1850s on Mississippi's repudiation of its debt.

You're exactly right to ask about the differences between oral delivery and reading after the fact; I'm trying to get a better hold on audience reaction to the oral addresses. Judge Gaston's 1832 UNC address is reprinted at least 5, maybe 6 times before the Civil War. (That's really rare, but for at least several of these, the audience for the printed word seems to be larger than for the spoken word.)

Darren Rosenblum

This is so interesting, I wonder if the Philomathean Society at Penn had anything on this debate. I know that in the meetings there are records of debates over slavery, but I'm not sure if they're specific to the arguments you're making.


There are some published speeches given to the Penn Philo society before the Civil War, though I've never looked into what, if any unpublished records exist for Philo. I'd be very interested in the debates over slavery -- though my primary focus these days is schools south of the Mason-Dixon line.

The literary society sponsored speeches from outsiders -- often though not always alumni. These were usually given at graduation or at the beginning of the school year. And then they also had an active internal debating schedule. It's the external and graduation speeches that are published; the internal speeches are preserved in the minutes of literary societies. Tragically, but un-surprisingly, few of the internal speeches survive. But sometimes we have those, as well as other cool stuff, like library borrowing records. So we can figure what students read. I'll be talking about a bunch of this stuff in the spring.

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