Public Program- Carolyn Eastman

Lectures and Performances
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 7:00pm to Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 6:45pm

“’Grandeurs which I had heard of’: Books and the Imagined World of Travel in the Eighteenth Century,” by Carolyn Eastman

illustration of native people in a eighteenth century travel narrative

In the eighteenth century, lavishly illustrated travel narratives quickly became one of the most popular book genres for American readers. These books told the tales of daring explorers and adventurers whose experiences were so dramatic they could seem better than fiction. Better yet, their pages were interleaved with elaborately detailed copperplate engravings that offered still more insights into a world full of strange peoples.

Eastman's lecture examines more closely not just how those books taught Americans how to think about a larger world, but how men and women in remote American towns and villages learned to consider travel as an educational and potentially life-changing experience. Using the manuscript writings of ordinary Americans who read books and kept detailed travel diaries- even if they only intended to travel from Greenfield to Boston- this talk considers most broadly the new meanings of travel during the eighteenth century and how it came to be seen as a marker of the enlightened.

This lecture is based upon Eastman's current research project at AAS that explores the changing views of gender and sexuality in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Eastman contends that ideas about gender moved around that world, much like race, religious movement, or mercantilism. These concepts of gender also changed as new peoples encountered one another on the ground as well as in print.

Carolyn Eastman is an associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and a 2011-12 AAS-NEH Fellow. She is the author of A Nation of Speechifiers: Making An American Public after the Revolution (2009) which won the James Broussard Best First Book awarded by the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic.

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