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RESCHEDULED - Benjamin Franklin's Standup Comic: The Speech of Miss Polly Baker

Thursday, 27 January, 2011 @ 04:00 PM |

In Franklin's Speech of Miss Polly Baker (1747), Polly Baker, a New England mother about to be sentenced in court for delivering her fifth illegitimate child, delivers instead a short defense in which she turns every argument for her prosecution on its head. Franklin, 41 years old when he created Polly Baker, and himself the father of an illegitimate child at the time, never identified himself as the author of this essay.

Twentieth-century scholars proved Franklin's authorship, often citing the essay as an example of his condemnation of Puritan hypocrisy or his attempt to imitate early English novelists. In 2010, however, we might also argue that Franklin's Polly represents more than criticism or imitation: 'Polly Baker' represents a prototype of American performance art. Franklin clearly understood narrative voice and persona, and he also recognized that the most effective way to speak truth to power was through comedy.

The Speech of Polly Baker anticipates a rich heritage of popular American monologues and performances that confront institutional hypocrisy, gender hypocrisy, etc., through good timing and laughter.

Presented by Parley Ann Boswell, professor of English

Categories: Lectures/Seminars


University of Illinois, ARC Center
201 E. Peabody Drive
Gym 1
Champaign, IL 61820

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