On today’s episode, we’re joined by Paul Stob to discuss his book, Intellectual Populism: Democracy, Inquiry, and the People. In response to denunciations of populism as undemocratic and anti-intellectual, Intellectual Populism argues that populism has contributed to a distinct and democratic intellectual tradition in which ordinary people assume leading roles in the pursuit of knowledge. Focusing on the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras, the book uses case studies of intellectual figures to trace key rhetorical appeals that proved capable of resisting the status quo and building alternative communities of inquiry. As the book shows, figures like Robert Ingersoll, Mary Baker Eddy, Thomas Davidson, Booker T. Washington, and Zitkala-Sa deployed populist rhetoric to rally ordinary people as thinkers in new intellectual efforts. In sum, Intellectual Populism demonstrates how orators and advocates can channel the frustrations and energies of the American people toward productive, democratic intellectual ends.
Paul Stob is Associate Professor and Chair of Communication Studies at Vanderbilt University. Stob’s research explores the intersection of rhetoric, intellectual culture, and public advocacy in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era United States. In addition to Intellectual Populism, he is author of William James and the Art of Popular Statement and coeditor of Thinking Together: Lecturing, Learning, and Difference in the Long Nineteenth Century.
Intellectual Populism is available from msupress.org and other fine booksellers. You can find out more about the book at intellectualpopulism.com, and Stob is on Twitter @paulstob. You can connect with the press on Facebook and @msupress on twitter, where you can also find me @kurtmilb.
The MSU Press podcast is a joint production of MSU Press and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University. Thanks to Daniel Trego, Madiha Ghous, Donté Smith, Kylene Cave, and the team at MSU Press, especially Elise Jajuga and Julie Reaume, for helping to produce this podcast. Our theme music is “Coffee” by Cambo.