Hartnett, Stephen J. 1963-

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HARTNETT, Stephen J. 1963-


Born April 21, 1963, in East Lansing, MI; married Brett Kaplan; children: Anya. Education: Rutgers College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1986; University of California, San Diego, M.A., 1990, Ph. D., 1992.


Office—Dept. of Speech Communication, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, 244 Lincoln Hall, 702 South Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801. E-mail—[email protected].


Educator, poet, musician, prison reform/prisoners' rights advocate. Ball State University, Muncie, IN, lecturer, 1991-94, assistant professor, 1994-96; University of California, Berkeley, visiting lecturer, 1996-99; University of Illinois, assistant professor, 1999-2003, associate professor, 2003—. Member, advisor, chair, or participant for various panels, boards, committees, symposiums, teach-ins, musical venues, documentary films, and poetry readings.


National Communication Association, Rhetoric Society of America.


Academic grants and fellowships from Rutgers College, University of California, University of Illinois, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Radical Philosophy Association of America; Instructor of the Year award, Patten College/San Quentin Prison Program, 1998-99; Winans and Wichelns Memorial Award for distinguished scholarship in rhetoric and public address, 2002. Artistic grants and awards from the Puffin Foundation, Share It Now Foundation, and George Soros/Open Society.


(With Robert James Branham) Sweet Freedom's Song: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Democracy in America, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Democratic Dissent and the Cultural Fictions of Antebellum America, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2002.

Incarceration Nation: Investigative Prison Poems of Hope and Terror, AltaMira Press (Walnut Creek, CA), 2003.

Contributor to books, including Race, Class, and Community Identity, edited by Andrew Light and Meck Nagel, Humanities Press (New York, NY), 2000; The Rhetorical History of the United States, Volume I: Rhetoric, Independence, and Nationhood, edited by Stephen Lucas, and Volume III: Rhetoric and Civic Identity in the Early Republic, edited by Stephen Browne, Michigan State University Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2004; and Dignified Deaths, Joyous Wakes: Reflections on Dying and Death in America, edited by Ann Kaplan, Rutgers University Press (Piscataway, NJ), 2004. Contributor of articles to academic journals, including Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Text and Performance Quarterly, Argumentation and Advocacy, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and American Studies. Contributor of essays to periodicals, including Public-I, Broken Chains, and the Newsletter of the Coalition for the Abolition of Prisons. Contributor of reviews to publications, including Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Communication Theory, Review of Communication, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Cultural Studies, Journal of Communication, and Criticism. Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including Cultural Studies, Broken Chains, Left Curve, and Radical Philosophy Review. Editor of Broken Chains (biannual magazine of prisoners' writings, poetry, and political commentary), 2001-03.


Executing Democracy: Arguing about Capital Punishment in America, 1683-1845, and The Empire of Deception: War in Iraq, Globalization, and the Twilight of Democracy.


Through his writings and broad participation in both academic and nonacademic projects, Stephen J. Hartnett shares his progressive views on civil liberties, human rights, drug policy, globalization, military conflicts, and various other issues. Hartnett is also a musician and poet, and he has collaborated with other artists and filmmakers in a variety of capacities, from grant writing to directing projects that showcase the views of their creators.

Hartnett is the author, with the late Robert James Branham (Bates College), of Sweet Freedom's Song: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Democracy in America. The book is a history of the song that isn't officially the national anthem of the United States but which has played a part in the history of the country for more than 250 years. The song first appeared in print in 1744 as the British national anthem "God Save the King," and in the States, it raised spirits during the Revolutionary War and was adopted by both the North and the South during the Civil War. Through time, "America" was sung by abolitionists, advocates of temperance, suffragettes, and the labor movement. Appendixes offer sixteen versions of the song and titles and publication information for both the British and American versions.

The most important reworking of the song came in 1831, when Samuel Smith added the words "My country tis of thee." Times Literary Supplement contributor Richard Crawford noted that "the second chapter is particularly convincing in showing why this British melody proved a match for so many nineteenth-century American polemical texts. The answer apparently lay in the fondness of Lowell Mason, the 'father' of children's singing instruction, for Samuel Smith's words." Mason published songbooks that were widely distributed to children, schools, and the general public, which proved to be a successful vehicle for the promotion of the song. Choice reviewer C. W. Henderson called Sweet Freedom's Song "a superb example of cultural history."

Hartnett's Democratic Dissent and the Cultural Fictions of Antebellum America is a study of what he calls the "cultural fictions" that accompanied the public debate of the period regarding manifest destiny and empire, race and slavery, abolition and capitalism, and representation and self-making. He draws on a variety of resources, including daguerreotypes, novels and poems, newspaper articles and advertisements, speeches, protest pamphlets, and reports in concluding why some cultural fictions were more successful than others, how they were used to achieve political goals, and how they both helped and hindered dissent during the time of transition to modernity. Hartnett also calls on the writings of authors of the period, such as Walt Whitman, George Fitzhugh, Lydia Maria Child, William Walker, and Solomon Northrup. Choice reviewer P. F. Field noted that "the tone is conversational but assumes knowledge of the era, its historiography, and postmodern theory and its practitioners."

Hartnett is also a prison reform activist and has worked with inmates in prison systems in Indiana, Illinois, and California. He has taught and protested at prisons and written about the subject of prison reform for many years. Hartnett was the spokesperson for the National Coalition against Control Unit Prisons for the documentary film titled Lockdown USA. Filmed in New York, Chicago, and in Indiana prisons, it was aired on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations across the country. With the artist Richard Kamler, he tours the nation with The Waiting Room, an interactive art installation in which he hosts community conversations about the death penalty. Between these Waiting Room conversations, poetry readings, and lectures, Hartnett has spoken to activists in California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, and Indiana.

Incarceration Nation: Investigative Prison Poems of Hope and Terror is Hartnett's cross-genre book that interweaves poetry that reflects the hopes and dreams of prisoners and their families with a critique of the prison-industrial complex. He details the efforts of activist groups that oppose the death penalty, the war on drugs, and the use of prisoners as commodities for the benefit of corporations and includes the opinions of historians, poets, and philosophers in emphasizing his position that the prison industry is mass-producing criminals for gain.



Choice, October, 2002, C. W. Henderson, review of Sweet Freedom's Song: "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Democracy in America, p. 288; November, 2002, P. F. Field, review of Democratic Dissent and the Cultural Fictions of Antebellum America, p. 538.

Times Literary Supplement, November 1, 2002, Richard Crawford, review of Sweet Freedom's Song, p. 23.

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