Friday, April 26, 2013
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
3132 Tawes Hall
Co-sponsored with Professor Richard Bell and his Early American Seminar in the Department of History and the Washington Early American Seminar.
To request a copy of the pre-circulated readings, contact Professor Robert Levine, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carla Mulford is a Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University and the Founding President of the Society of Early Americanists.
Mulford's paper is a chapter from her new book project, which she describes as follows:
"Benjamin Franklin and the Ends of Empire is both a literary biography and an analysis of the evolution of Franklin’s theories of empire. As an intellectual biography, my study focuses on Franklin’s written and oral expression (including private and published letters, pamphlets, newspaper articles, notes to himself, and speeches in meetings), paying great attention to Franklin’s public and private views on the British empire and its fiscal, social, legal, and military problems. As a study of Franklin’s views about empire in North America, I show that Franklin’s social and political theories evolved across his lifetime, in response to the changing fiscal, legal, and political conditions placed on the lives of the American colonists, Native Americans, and Africans and African Americans. Franklin’s changing viewpoints indicate to me an early embracing of and then a developing critique of British leaders, especially those who sought to hinder the freedoms of others while gaining for themselves both political power and property.
What is special about my book? Biographical in orientation, the book addresses Franklin’s intellectual life specifically related to early modern liberalism and imperial theory. But it also speaks to the very literariness of Franklin’s expression, focusing again and again on the methods Franklin used to express his ideas to the different audiences he was writing for. The point about the literary qualities of Franklin’s writing can be lost on history buffs mostly interested in his ideas themselves and on biographers facing the immense task of tracking all of the different avenues of Franklin’s active life. By paying attention to the both the content of Franklin’s writings and their literary qualities, my book provokes readers into recognizing that to Franklin, the life of the mind was a palpable, ideal accomplishment. Scholars remark about this with regard to his autobiography, but rarely do they attend to Franklin’s skills as an author of fiscal, social, and political policy. My book presents consolidated analyses of Franklin’s writings on monetary policies, on social and political problems, and on the ideology of freedom that came to define American liberal thought during the political transformation that took place as the colonies were becoming states. The book is, in essence, a literary study of Franklin’s lifetime of writing about society, economics, and politics. I reveal Franklin’s evolving intellectual life as he was figuring out that the best government was one that could secure the best possible lived experience for the greatest number of peoples around the globe."
This portrait of Benjamin Franklin, c. 1780-1781, is by Louis Carrogis De Carmontellen ink, crayon, and watercolor paper and is held by the National Portrait Gallery. Complete information is available here.