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Making Noise, Making NewsSuffrage Print Culture and U.S. Modernism$
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Mary Chapman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199988297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199988297.001.0001

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“Straight Talk, and Quick Talk”

“Straight Talk, and Quick Talk”

Conversation as a Politic in Modern Suffrage Fiction

(p.147) 5 “Straight Talk, and Quick Talk”
Making Noise, Making News

Mary Chapman

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the trope of conversation as collective voice in modern suffrage fiction. It examines how dialogue, both thematic and formal, works to enhance the public sphere, using as a case study a serialized composite novel The Sturdy Oak (1917), one of the most popular, commercially successful, and aesthetically innovative of modern U.S. suffrage fictions. Edited by Harpers Bazar editor Elizabeth Jordan, the novel contrasts two antidemocratic discourses, the monologic elite abstracting oratory of a rising political star and the more material and more violent working-class dialect of his corrupt political cronies with a more dialogic voice fashioned by modern suffragist characters through their early adoption of more dialogic mass communication forms. This alternative voice of a consolidated, civic-minded middle class is facilitated by suffragists’ expert deployment of the telephone, typewriter, telegraph, newspaper “wire” service, and linotype to foster deliberative discussion in the public sphere. Paradoxically, the novel’s suffragists find political self-expression in the absence of the franchise, not through the individuated self-expression enacted in oratory and privileged by literary histories of modernism but through more modern and more collaborative acoustical and print cultural technologies of voice.

Keywords:   conversation, composite novel, The Sturdy Oak, monologic vs. dialogic, modern communication technologies, serial fiction, Elizabeth Garver Jordan

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