The Cosmopolitan Lyceum: Globalism & Lecture Culture In Nineteenth-Century America

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American Antiquarian Society


An Interdisciplinary Conference
American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, 23-25 September 2011

Confirmed Speakers:
Thomas Augst (New York University)
Peter Gibian (McGill University)
Angela Ray (Northwestern University)
Ronald and Mary Zboray (University Of Pittsburgh)

This event will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to consider the phenomenon of the nineteenth-century public lecture, in terms of its engagement with global and transnational themes.

Throughout that period, the popular lecture – delivered in learned societies, academies, mechanics' institutes or on commercial tours – was a dominant mode of learning and leisure. It provided a common context for literary and scientific discourse, became a primary vehicle for social reform and institution-building, and was frequently also a dramatic mode, marrying rational amusement with a structure of display. With the emergence of a 'new orality' in American literary and cultural studies, neglected verbal practices are being reclaimed, and the lecture has become important focus of research, a form whose complex relationship to print and global culture we are still only beginning to comprehend.

The Cosmopolitan Lyceum aims to use these eclectic contexts – intellectual life, reform, show culture, and orality – to explore the ways in which lecturing engaged with and made use of global knowledge, realities and experience. Proposals for 20-minute papers are welcomed, and possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

• Lecture culture in transnational and transatlantic contexts
• Popular lecturing and global discourses of race, gender and ethnicity
• Lecture culture, abolition and Black Atlantic history
• Lecturing, comparative politics and transnational reform
• Popular dissemination of scientific discoveries
• Legacies of Elocution and The Scottish Enlightenment
• Travel lectures and the mediation of global knowledge
• Public lecturing and international celebrity
• Orality, print and media culture
• Lecturers as mediators between forms of expert authority


For further information, and to submit paper proposals visit

or email Tom F. Wright (University of Oxford):