The Cosmopolitan Lyceum

The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Lecture Culture and the Globe in NineteenthCentury America

Edited by Tom F. Wright
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Cosmopolitan Lyceum
    Book Description:

    From the 1830s to the 1900s, a circuit of lecture halls known as the “lyceum movement” flourished across the United States. At its peak, up to a million people a week regularly attended talks in local venues, captivated by the words of visiting orators who spoke on an extensive range of topics. The movement was a major intellectual and cultural force of this nationbuilding period, forming the creative environment of writers and public figures such as Frederic Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anna Dickinson, and Mark Twain. The phenomenon of the lyceum has commonly been characterized as inward looking and nationalistic. Yet as this collection of essays reveals, nineteenthcentury audiences were fascinated by information from around the globe, and lecturers frequently spoke to their fellow Americans of their connection to the world beyond the nation and helped them understand “exotic” ways of life. Never simple in its engagement with cosmopolitan ideas, the lyceum provided a powerful public encounter with international currents and crosscurrents, foreshadowing the problems and paradoxes that continue to resonate in our globalized world. This book offers a major reassessment of this important cultural phenomenon, bringing together diverse scholars from history, rhetoric, and literary studies. The twelve essays use a range of approaches, cover a wide chronological timespan, and discuss a variety of performers both famous and obscure. In addition to the volume editor, contributors include Robert Arbour, Thomas Augst, Susan Branson, Virginia Garnett, Peter Gibian, Sara Lampert, Angela Ray, Evan Roberts, Paul Stob, Mary Zboray, and Ronald Zboray.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-289-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Tom F. Wright

    During the nineteenth century, the wordcosmopolitanevolved from a noun to an adjective. Attempting to establish where and when the shift occurred, theOxford English Dictionarycites a Boston lecture hall and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1844 talk titled “The Young American.”¹ In that speech the word appears at the head of a moment of prophetic rhetoric:

    [With] a heterogeneous population crowding on all ships from all corners of the world to the great gates of North America, namely, Boston, New York, and New Orleans, and thence proceeding inward to the prairie and the mountains, and quickly contributing their private...

  5. Part I: Cultivating Cosmopolitanism
    • 1 How Cosmopolitan Was the Lyceum, Anyway?
      (pp. 23-41)
      Angela G. Ray

      In 1980, historian Donald M. Scott wrote in theJournal of American Historythat the lyceum lecture system in the mid-nineteenth-century United States “not only expressed a national culture; it was one of the central institutions within and by which the public had its existence.”¹ Drawing on the scholarship of Scott and others, as well as my own investigation of primary materials, in 2005 I described the lyceum as a “culture-making rhetorical practice.”² By that I meant that through the regular performance of communal ritual—such as participating in or watching debates, delivering or listening to public lectures—Americans in...

    • 2 Women Thinking: The International Popular Lecture and Its Audience in Antebellum New England
      (pp. 42-66)
      Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray

      On the evening of December 11, 1838, Bostonian Annie Lawrence walked over to the Masonic Temple in the bustling city center to hear the first in a course of lectures on the “domestic manners and habits of the Turks.”¹ It was to be given by Christopher Hatchik Oscanyan, a New York University student who was a recent Armenian immigrant from the Ottoman Empire. The hall was packed to the gills with New Athenians who had perhaps read about his stint in New York, where he had spoken on Constantinople.² But this night in Boston he would focus on the Osmanli...

    • 3 Bringing Music to the Lyceumites: The Bureaus and the Transformation of Lyceum Entertainment
      (pp. 67-90)
      Sara Lampert

      The sale of season tickets for the Worcester Lyceum Course was particularly lively the weekend of October 17, 1874. The first local residents began lining up outside the box office at Mechanics Hall at seven o’clock the evening before the sale began, and their numbers totaled twenty-five by midnight. The course for 1874–75 was slated to open with Camilla Urso’s Concert Company. A French violinist and impresario, Urso was an “established favorite” in Worcester and sold out every seat in Mechanics Hall for her October concert.¹ The lyceum committee had discovered that the cost of bringing a concert combination...

  6. Part II: Cosmopolitan Authorship
    • 4 Mr. Emerson’s Playful Lyceum: Polyvocal Promotion on the Lecture Circuit
      (pp. 93-112)
      Robert Arbour

      On a bitterly cold January evening in DeWitt, Iowa, in 1866, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a veteran lecturer on the lyceum circuit with some thirty-three years of experience under his belt, stood at the rostrum and began skipping wildly over the pages of his manuscript, glancing every so often at his watch. The reason was simple: he had double-booked himself. Emerson’s tight schedule did not allow him to finish the full lecture. He had to catch an 8:50 train to give another lecture in Dubuque the next night, and the audience of tiny DeWitt suddenly became dispensable. “Mr. Emerson treated his...

    • 5 With Press and Paddle: William H. H. Murray’s “Adirondack” Lectures and the Making of a Wilderness Guide
      (pp. 113-129)
      Virginia Garnett

      On May 10, 1870, standing before a thousand of Boston’s curiosity seekers, learned men, and armchair travelers, renowned pastor, gamesman, writer, and soon-to-be popular lecturer William Henry Harrison Murray offered himself as a guide to the Adirondacks, a wild mountainous region still foreign to many but only a day trip away. His lecture drew from his sporting experiences on and around Raquette Lake and included practical advice regarding when and how to travel as well as Emersonian descriptions of the woods.¹ The wilderness should be open to all, regardless of class, he argued, for it offered spiritual fulfillment and wisdom...

    • 6 William James’s “True American Theory”: The Varieties of Religious Experience and Transatlantic Intellectual Culture
      (pp. 130-148)
      Paul Stob

      William james should have been the first American to deliver Scotland’s prestigious Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology. He was, after all, the first American invited to deliver them. But a variety of factors—health problems, time constraints, anxiety about finding the right message for this intellectually imposing venue—prevented James from delivering the lectures before Josiah Royce, a California native and James’s Harvard colleague, could occupy the podium.¹ Perhaps it was best that Royce became the first American to deliver the Gifford lectures. Not only did the delay give James time to get healthier and to find his message, it...

  7. Part III: Internationalism or Imperialism?
    • 7 “Barnum is undone in his own province”: Science, Race, and Entertainment in the Lectures of George Robins Gliddon
      (pp. 151-167)
      Susan Branson

      In the spring of 1850, theHartford Daily Courantinformed its readers that George Gliddon, former American vice consul to Egypt, renowned scholar, and collector of Egyptian antiquities, planned to unwrap an Egyptian mummy at Boston’s Tremont Temple. The notice ended with the following comment: “Barnum is undone in his own province, and unless he can get up another Joyce Heth, may as well succumb.”¹ Gliddon, a respected authority on ancient Egyptian culture, had recently concluded a six-year lecture tour in the United States. Why were Americans so interested in a time and place so distant from their own? And...

    • 8 The Lyceum as Contact Zone: Bayard Taylor’s Lectures on Foreign Travel
      (pp. 168-202)
      Peter Gibian

      One of the fundamental questions that divided Americans from the early postcolonial period through the antebellum era was a debate about the foundation and formation of cultural life in the young nation. This ongoing debate played out and heightened a schematic division between two sharply opposed conceptions of the process of nation building—pitting cultural independence against global interdependence; exceptionalist isolationism against expansive or expansionist outreach; a cultural nationalism that came to be commonly associated with the Young America movement against a cosmopolitan vision that came to be associated with the life and work of Washington Irving. Should the new...

    • 9 The Peripatetic Career of Wherahiko Rawei: Māori Culture on the Global Chautauqua Circuit, 1893–1927
      (pp. 203-220)
      Evan Roberts

      Historians of cultural pathways in the nineteenth-century “English-speaking world” have mostly examined the separate connections between Britain and its colonies and Britain and the United States. Within the British Empire strong cultural ties—seen by many historians as being exported from the metropole to the colony—went hand in hand with formal political ties. Despite the severance of those ties, cultural interchange between Britain and the United States remained strong through the nineteenth century. Telling historiographical evidence of a transatlantic culture may be seen in the use of the termVictorian erato describe late-nineteenth-century culture in both Great Britain...

  8. Conclusion:: Cosmopolitan Medium
    • 10 Humanist Enterprise in the Marketplace of Culture
      (pp. 223-240)
      Thomas Augst

      In the early twenty-first century, we are witnessing the evolution of genres of discourse that, as with previous eras of “new” technologies of communication, reconfigure the relations between writing and speech in ways that seem to bend once finite boundaries of received forms of knowledge. Books with covers become e-books on screens; practices of writing that once assumed formality and deliberation have become tactile exercises of speed and efficiency that we call “texting”; more or less formalized exchange of messages across geographic distances performed by correspondence or telegrams now draw expressive power from wit and spontaneity once valued by educated...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 241-244)
  10. Index
    (pp. 245-251)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 252-252)