The Newberry Library Seminar in Early American History and Culture
Co-Sponsored by the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, and DePaul University
Thursday, February 16, 2006, 5:30-7:00pm
The Newberry Library
Paine, Jefferson, and the Grammar of Revolution
Betsy Erkilla, Northwestern University
This is the first chapter of a longer study entitled Writing the Revolution: Literature and Politics in Revolutionary America. I focus on Revolutionary writing as a rhetorical battlefield in which a multiplicity of voices and forms struggled for cultural authority in writing and naming America. In the section of this chapter, I argue that Tom Paine's Common Sense played a foundational role in transforming the American Revolution from a primarily political to a social revolution. By retelling the origins of government from a republican point of view, Common Sense invested such key terms in the American founding as liberty, equality, rights, independence, natural law, representation, consent, constitution, and common sense. It rescued the terms republic, republican, and republicanism from their previously negative associations with anarchy and excess and in effect, killed the King rhetorically as a meaningful term in American and arguably, Western history.
Admission is free, pre-registration is required. To register and receive copies of the paper, e-mail Ginger Shulick at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 312.255.3524.
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