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Voices of Democracy: The U.S. Oratory Project

Leaders: Shawn J. Parry-Giles, University of Maryland; J. Michael Hogan, Pennsylvania State University; Robert Gaines, University of Maryland

  Voices of Democracy: The U.S. Oratory Project

Shawn J. Parry-Giles (University of Maryland)
J. Michael Hogan (Pennsylvania State University)
Robert Gaines (University of Maryland)

This workshop is designed to explore pedagogical strategies for teaching the history of American public address in the undergraduate classroom. The Voices of Democracy (VOD) website, scheduled to debut publicly in the spring of 2009, will be the central resource for the workshop.  Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities with additional support from NCA, the University of Maryland, and Penn State University, VOD will be the first "full service" online resource for teachers and students of American public address.  In addition to a multimedia archive of great speeches and debates, the site will include authenticated texts, original essays providing historical context and critical interpretations of each speech, and other teaching-learning materials.   

The mission of the Voices of Democracy project is to enliven the study of U.S. history, to promote an understanding of rhetorical principles and ideals, and to encourage undergraduate students to "speak out" themselves.  VOD will make it possible for students to study the actual words of those who, throughout American history, have defined the country's guiding principles, debated the great social and political controversies of the nation's history, and shaped the identity and character of the American people.  By making it possible for teachers to expose students to important "moments" in public deliberation, the VOD project will foster greater understanding of the nation's rhetorical traditions and promote the habits and skills of democratic citizenship. 

The workshop will be divided into the following three parts and led by three co-directors of the Voices of Democracy project:

Part I: (Friday afternoon and early Saturday morning)

Review of the history of U.S. public address and the humanities classroom.

  • Overview of the Voices of Democracy project and its mission.
  • Discussion of textual authentication, historical contextualization, and textual interpretation.
  • Review of the technical features of the Voices of Democracy website and its uses in the classroom.

Part II: (Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon)

  • Discussion of best practices for teaching U.S. public address-workshop participants will be asked to share ideas, sample assignments, teaching strategies, and syllabi.
  • Exploration of the relationship between the study of public address and civic
    engagement among students.
  • Discussion of the new directions in public address (e.g., the rise of acoustic and visual texts, reception studies of texts, investigations of iconic
    speeches, musical performances, photographs, and videos).

Part III: (Sunday morning)

  • Discussion of the Voices of Democracy serial and the opportunities for workshop participants to contribute to this new on-line refereed journal.

For questions, please contact Shawn J. Parry-Giles at

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