Kathleen Feeley Dishes in her New Book

June 18, 2015

In her new book, When Private Talk Goes Public: Gossip in American History, Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department Kathleen Feeley dishes on the history of rumor, hearsay, tittle-tattle, and scuttlebutt.

“When private talk goes public, noise gets made, news gets made, history gets made,” Feeley said. “And people might just be surprised at the positive and constructive functions gossip can play.”

Described as “brilliant” and “a great read full of surprises,” When Private Talk Goes Public has earned praise from academics and authors alike. Elaine Taylor May, author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation, said, “This lively and fascinating collection challenges many common assumptions about the meaning and functions of gossip. Spanning American history from witchcraft trials in the Colonial era to internet blogging in the 21st century, these essays show how gossip has blurred the lines between public and private life.”

David Nasaw, the Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Professor of History at the City University of New York echoed May’s sentiments, calling the book “A magnificent and wondrously wide-ranging anthology of articles on 350 years of gossip about politics, power, diplomacy, celebrity, marriage, morals, mayhem, love, and, of course, sex in its multiple variations. When Private Talk Goes Public has something for everyone who cares about, studies, teaches, or reads American history.”

Feeley co-edited When Private Talk Goes Public with Jennifer Frost, and the manuscript was copy-edited and proofread by Feeley’s former student research assistant, Sabrina Jonkhoff ’14. Feeley has also given presentations on When Private Talk Goes Public at various events, including the Redlands Forum, presented by the University of Redlands Town & Gown and Esri. It was a natural fit for Feeley to work on a book about gossip, as it is a subject she has found intriguing for most of her life.

“My interest in gossip has its roots in reading Star magazine at the kitchen table of my grandmother, Dorothy Feeley, as a child in upstate New York, and continues unabated to this day,” she said.

Feeley is putting the finishing touches on her next book, Mary Pickford: Hollywood and the New Woman, out in 2016, and an article to be published in the journal Jewish Culture and History later this year, “‘The Antithesis of the Film Magnate’: Irving Thalberg and the Politics of Ethno-Religious Identity in Early Hollywood.”

Posted: June 18, 2015