Program in the History of the Book  in American Culture

Translingual Inheritance: Language Diversity in Early National Philadelphia
with Elizabeth Kimball

Thursday, August 26, 2021, 2 pm EDT

Approx.1 hour

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This program is free but requires advanced registration.

Translingual Inheritance tells a new story of the early days of democracy in the United States, when English had not yet become the only dominant language. Drawing on translingual theory, which exposes how language use contrasts with the political constructions of named languages, Elizabeth Kimball argues that Philadelphians developed complex metalinguistic conceptions of what language is and how it mattered in their relations. In-depth chapters introduce the democratically active communities of Philadelphia between 1750 and 1830 and introduce the three most populous: Germans, Quakers (the Society of Friends), and African Americans.

These communities had ways of knowing and using their own languages to create identities and serve the common good outside of English. They used these practices to articulate plans and pedagogies for schools, exercise their faith, and express the promise of the young democracy. Kimball draws on primary sources and archival texts that have been little seen or considered to show how citizens consciously took on the question of language and its place in building their young country and how such practice is at the root of what made democracy possible.

Elizabeth Kimball is Assistant Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the author of Translingual Inheritance: Language Diversity in Early National Philadelphia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) and co-author, with Elenore Long and Jennifer Clifton, of The Potentiality of Difference: Singular Rhythms of a Translational Humanities in Community Contexts (Intermezzo, 2021). She is the co-chair of the Philadelphia Writing Program Administrators.

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Elizabeth Kimball

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