Colonial New Englanders would have found our modern notions of free speech very strange indeed. Children today shrug off harsh words by chanting "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," but in the seventeenth century people felt differently. "A soft tongue breaketh the bone," they often said.
Governing the Tongue explains why the spoken word assumed such importance in the culture of early New England. Author Jane Kamensky re-examines such famous Puritan events as the Salem witch trials and the banishment of Anne Hutchinson to expose the ever-present fear of what the puritans called "sins of the tongue." But even while dangerous or deviant speech was restricted, Kamensky points out, godly speech was continuously praised and promoted. Congregations were told that one should ones voice "like a trumpet" to God and "cry out and cease not."
By placing speech at the heart of familiar stories of Puritan New England, Kamensky develops new ideas about the relationship between speech and power both in Puritan New England and, by extension, in our world today.
"'Speech history' is a topic scarcely imagined as recently as a few years ago. But now, with Jane Kamensky's pathbreaking new book in hand, scholars and students of the American past must take it very seriously indeed. With the utmost care, with great interpretive finesse, and in consistently sparkling prose, Kamensky shows us a new side of that venerable target--colonial New England--and provides as well an excellent model for other studies of other places."--John Demos, Yale University "Jane Kamensky's Governing the Tongue is a fascinating study of the spoken word in seventeenth-century New England. At once meticulously researched and elegantly argued, it combines trenchant analysis with writing so lively and fresh that it is a must read not only for early American scholars but for anyone interested in an absorbing account of the relationship between speech and power."--Carol Karlsen, Harvard Divinity School "Recovering the sounds in our silent sources is one of the most challenging tasks facing historians. Jane Kamensky has been enormously resourceful in her seeking and finding an astonishing range of ways to do this. Recreating the pervasive ranked-and-gendered hierarchisms of early America for our epistemically equalitarian world is another daunting task which Jane Kamensky has most persuasively accomplished. This is a highly original work that synthesizes of a vast body of historiographical and theoretical scholarship into a compelling narrative--for which readers will be immeasurably grateful."--Rhys Isaac, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia "Governing the Tongue is an orignal piece of scholarship. And the gravity of the discussion is leavened by Kamensky's occasional what-do-I-think-is-happening questions, which have the welcome effect of making the reader a participant in her historical quest."--Boston Globe "This intelligent book about the power of speech indeed provides a new perspective on some of the major events of the colonies' first decades."--Times Literary Supplement "[T]he very act of speaking and the structures and boundaries governing public expression have remained unexplored. Jane Kamensky movens into this space with skill and insight, navigating carefully the methodological problem of locating authentic, oral voices in old written records."--American Historical Review "Kamensky's fascinating exploration of the power of language to shape Puritan society explains just how words acquired the weight of action in early New England...This is a brilliant book, beautifully written, about the palpable power of language in a 'hearful' society."--Law and History Review "This innovative, well-argued, and exceptionally well written treatment of a neglected topic deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the relationships among speech and gender, power and politics, language and society."--Language in Society "Few books are this artful or elegant in their literary style...[W]e are much in Kamensky's debt for demonstrating the social valences of speech."--Journal of American History "Jane Kamensky's Governing the Tongue is a civilized, delightful, and thoughtful study of the rise and fall of the Puritans' effort to control speech...[G]ood language, easy complexity of thought, and a fine ability to synthesize a huge volume of recent work on early New England."--Journal of Social History "[This book] adds a useful new dimension to the discussion of gender and language: not only the structure of our language but also the ways we are encouraged--or not--to use that language to contribute to our sense of who we are, who we should be, and the social world we live in...Some of the characters will be familiar to students of American history, but the fresh lens of speech history sheds new light on their familiar stories."--The Women's Review of Books "In this work...a sensitivity to language in history complements the author's sensitivity to language in the writing of history...It is a mark of the grace and ambition of this artfully constructed book that its monographic richness inspires synthetic desires...We will continue to keep talking about those Puritans, but now we will do so with a humility born of a rich appreciation of how they themselves talked, and listened. This is a linguistic turn we should all take."--Reviews in American History "Kamensky offers us a book impressive not only for its graceful writing and synthesis but also for its remarkable sensitivity to her subject's complexity."--Journal of Church and State "What is so refreshing about Governing the Tongue is how well and artfully it is written...[H]er writing style is tight, imaginative, and beautifully controlled. To read both a writer and historian of such promise is a rare and most welcome double pleasure."--The New England Quarterly "An exceptional book that elucidates the idiosyncracies of seventeenth-century Puritan culture while, at the same time, illuminating how Puritan dilemmas relate to our own."--Connecticut History "While many historians have told the story of the Salem witch trials, Jane Kamensky's fascinating retelling argues that the Salem trials--which resulted in the execution of 19 (probably) innocent man and women--marked the first and last time in early New England's history that magistrates did not suppress the accusations of young women against their elders. The irony is brutal. These were not the good old days."--Books & Culture
Number Of Pages: 304
Published: 1st December 1997
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.16 x 16.1 x 2.34
Weight (kg): 0.64