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Declaring Independence

By Jay Fliegelman
More than a document...
In Fliegelmans argument,
the act of
Declare, v. To make known or state publicly, formally, or in explicit
terms; to assert, proclaim, announce or pronounce by formal
statement or in solemn terms.
[In] the elocutionary revolution, [a] new
language was composed not of words
themselves, but of the tones, gestures,
and expressive countenance with which
a speaker delivered those words.
(Fliegelman 2)
Jeffersons Pauses
there is compelling evidence
that he thought deeply about how
it should be and

(Fliegelman 5)

read heard.
Jeffersons Influences
In opposition to the spoken
Declaration, whose speaker
illuminated, elicited, and
partially created its
meaning in the context of a
larger social interaction, the
printed Declaration,
experienced as it is today in
the individualistic context of
a silent reading largely
untuned to the performative
dimension of the text, is
radically cut off from its
original rhetorical
context. (Fliegelman 21)
The Declaration of Independence, John
Pennsylvania militia colonel John Nixon (1733-1808) is
portrayed in the first public reading of the Declaration of
Independence on July 6, 1776. This scene was created by
William Hamilton after a drawing by George Noble and
appeared in Edward Barnard, History of England (London,
Rhetoric and Democracy
The Elocutionary Revolution
Significant contextual analysis of the
Declaration of Independence
Draws important distinction:
Declaration as document vs. the
rhetorical act of Declaration
Engages audience in questioning
assumed readings of foundational

Limited evidence from rhetorical marks
Critical methodology
Speculative historicism -- Mitchell

Works Cited

Burgh, James. The Art of Speaking. Baltimore: Printed
Samuel Butler by John Butler, 1804. Google Book
Search. Web. 16 Sept 2013.

Hamilton, William. First Public Reading of the
Declaration of
Independence. History of England. London: 1783.
Library of Congress. Web. 16 Sept 2013.

Levine, Robert. Constellating Associations: Jay
and Critical Method. Early American Literature.
43.1(2008): 145-151. MLA International Bibliography.
Web. 16 Sept. 2013

Savage, Edward. Congress Voting the Declaration of
1776. Library of Congress. Web. 16 Sept 2013.

Book images courtesy of Amazon