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date: 15 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents Romanticism as a golden age of oratory whose variety and cross-cultural influence were obscured in the reactionary aftermath of the French Revolution. Treating public speech as a political act and an art of gender and class mobility, the chapter defines oratory in distinction to orality and rhetoric through elocutionary theorists such as Thomas Sheridan and John Thelwall, who anticipate postcolonial concepts of oracy and orature. It then highlights three chief forms of oratory recognized in the era: parliamentary (balancing the giants Burke, Sheridan, and Fox against the radical ‘counter-parliamentary’ orators Thelwall, Wedderburn, and Hunt), religious (tracing conflicts over extemporality in the established, dissenting, and millenarian traditions), and theatrical (noting Sarah Siddons’s influence upon changing views of women as speakers). It ends by considering the lecture as a Romantic genre, and recitation as a tool of active, critical, and participatory democratic education through personation.

Keywords: oratory, elocution, public speech, radicalism, parliament, religion, gender, class, education, theatre

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