carolyn eastman

Carolyn Eastman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

(804) 828-0053

Early America

Education

Ph.D., History, Johns Hopkins University
M.A., History, University of New Hampshire
B.A., History, University of California, Santa Cruz

Research Interests

Eastman is an historian of early America with special interest in eighteenth and nineteenth-century histories of political culture, the media, and gender. Her research often begins with questions about the uses and meanings of early American media—print, oral, and visual cultures—focusing especially on non-elite readers, listeners, and viewers. She has written about Americans’ fascination with Indian eloquence after the Revolution; schoolgirls’ vindications of female oratorical excellence; debates over the best means of advocating for world peace during the antebellum era; portrayals of masculinity and sexuality in popular texts about antebellum pirates; and anxious accounts of mixed-race families in Atlantic travelogues.

Her new book, The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The United States’ First Forgotten Celebrity, uses the career of a now-forgotten celebrity of the very early nineteenth century to tell a new story about the intersection of political culture and celebrity—at a moment when the United States was in the midst of invention. This book tackles a wide array of topics that seem familiar to celebrity cultures of later eras: narcotics use, eccentric clothing, delusions of grandeur, glamorous circles of friends, dramatic successes and failures, and suicide. Yet in the context of the early nineteenth century, when celebrity culture did not yet exist, these subjects take on a new light.

Her first book, A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution, examines how ordinary women and men came to understand themselves as “Americans” after the Revolution. By scrutinizing the post-war profusion of print and oral media, this book offers a genealogy of early American identity that integrates politics, manners, gender, and race relations. It received the James Broussard Best First Book prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) and was a finalist for the Best Book Prize from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians.

She is currently on leave to develop a new book, A Plague in New York City: How the City Confronted--and Survived--the Yellow Fever Epidemics of the Founding Era. With the help of two prominent National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, she will develop a project that examines the Black and White New Yorkers who faced the terrors of a deadly disease during the 1790s.

Select Publications

  • The Strange Genius of Mr. O: The World of the United States’ First Forgotten Celebrity (Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture / University of North Carolina Press, March 2021)
  • A Nation of Speechifiers: Making an American Public after the Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
  • “Gender in the Early Republic: The Scholarship of Jan Ellen Lewis,” in Family, Love, and Race in the Early American Republic: The Historical Writing of Jan Ellen Lewis, eds. Barry Bienstock, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf (Chapel Hill: Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/ UNC Press, 2021)
  • “‘The powers of debate should be sedulously cultivated’: The Importance of Eloquence in Early American Education and the University of Virginia,” in The Founding of Thomas Jefferson’s University, eds. John Ragosta, Peter Onuf, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019)
  • “Reading Aloud: Editorial Societies and Orality in Early American Magazines,” in Early American Literature 54, no. 1 (Spring 2019): 163-88
  • “Conclusion: Placing Platform Culture in Nineteenth-Century American Life,” afterword for the volume Thinking Together: Cultures of Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century, eds. Angela Ray and Paul Stob (State College: Penn State University Press, 2018)
  • Oratory and Platform Culture in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century America and Britain,” a 9,200-word commissioned article for Oxford Handbooks Online, a division of Oxford University Press, ed. Colin Burrow, July 2016
  • “The Transatlantic Celebrity of Mr. O: Oratory and the Structures of Reputation in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain and America,” in the special issue, “Transatlantic Celebrity” edited by Páraic Finnerty and Rod Rosenquist for Comparative American Studies 14, no. 1 (March 2016): 7-20
  • “Forgetting History: Antebellum American Peace Reformers and the Specter of the Revolution,” in the collection Remembering the Revolution: Memory, History, and Nation-Making in the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War, eds. W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Frances Clarke, Clare Corbould, and Michael A. McDonnell (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2013)
  • “‘A Vapour which Appears but for a Moment’: Elocution for Girls during the Early American Republic,” in Rhetoric, History, and Women's Oratorical Education: American Women Learn to Speak, eds. David Gold and Catherine Hobbs (New York: Routledge, 2013)
    “Beware the Abandoned Woman: European Travelers, ‘Exceptional’ Native Women, and Interracial Families in Early Modern Atlantic Travelogues,” in Atlantic Worlds in the Long Eighteenth Century: Seduction and Sentiment, eds. Toni Bowers and Tita Chico (New York: Palgrave, 2012)
  • “Blood and Lust: Masculinity and Sexuality in Illustrated Print Portrayals of Early Pirates of the Caribbean” in New Men: Manliness in Early America, edited by Thomas A. Foster (New York: New York University Press, 2011)
  • Reprinted in The Golden Age of Piracy: The Rise, Fall, and Enduring Popularity of Pirates, ed. David Head. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2018
  • “Fight Like a Man: Gender and Rhetoric in the Early Nineteenth-Century American Peace Movement,” American Nineteenth Century History 10, no. 3 (September 2009): 247-71
  • “The Indian Censures the White Man: ‘Indian Eloquence’ and American Reading Audiences in the Early Republic,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser., 65, no. 3 (July 2008): 535-64
  • “The Female Cicero: Young Women’s Oratory and Gendered Public Participation in the Early American Republic,” Gender and History 19, no. 2 (August 2007): 260-83

Affiliations

  • American Historical Association
  • American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • Association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians
  • Organization of American Historians
  • Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Courses

Graduate Courses Taught:

  • Readings in U.S. Gender and Sexuality, 1600-Present (VCU)
  • Readings in the American Revolutionary Era, 1760-1830 (VCU)
  • Research Seminar in American History: The Art of the Article (VCU)
  • Literature of U.S. History before 1865 (UT)
  • Gender History and Theory in Europe and America (UT)
  • Gender and Public Space in the U.S. and Europe, 1600-1900 (UT)

Undergraduate Courses Taught:

  • The American Self-Made Man (general ed course, asynchronous/online, VCU)
  • American Social and Cultural History (senior capstone seminar, VCU)
  • The American Revolutionary Era (senior capstone seminar, VCU)
  • History of Sexuality in America (senior capstone seminar, VCU)
  • A History of Richmond in 50 Objects (upper-division/ honors seminar, VCU)
  • American Women’s History I (upper-division lecture, VCU)
  • American Women’s History II (upper-division lecture, VCU)
  • Introduction to Historical Study (required methods course for majors, VCU)
  • Making the Self-Made Man (upper-division seminar, VCU, UT [honors], & JHU)
  • The American Revolutionary Era, 1760-1800 (upper-division lecture, VCU & JHU)
  • History of Sexuality in America, 1600-Present (upper-division lecture, VCU & UT)
  • Oratory in America, 1775-Present (upper-division seminar, UT)
  • The New American Republic, 1780-1830 (upper-division seminar, UT)
  • Women, Gender and Sexuality in America to 1865 (lower-division lecture, UT)
  • U.S. History to 1865 (lower-division lecture, UT; and VCU, where it was asynchronous/ online)
  • Women, Gender, and American Political Culture, 1776-present (seminar, Johns Hopkins)

Awards

  • Winner of the James Broussard Best First Book Prize awarded by the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)
  • Finalist for the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Best Book Prize
  • Distinguished Lecturer, appointed by the Organization of American Historians
  • Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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