Project Editor:Anastasia Smallcomb, UCARE, 2007

Table of Contents

Overview of U.S. Literary Societies
UNL Literary Societies:
1. History
2. Within the Society
3. Women's Roles
4. Controversies

Works Cited
Site Map

Within the Society

Like the literary societies that came before them, the literary societies at UNL had classes in Essays, Declamations, and Debate. Each class required the student to get up in front of the audience, usually the other society members, professors from the University, and members of the community, and perform, depending on the class. Essays were pieces that were written by the speaker; Declamations were works written by someone else, like a well-known author or a classic poem; Debates were, of course, two teams, numbering from one to three people, arguing two sides of a point; topics for the Debate were chosen by a committee two weeks in advance to give the participants ample time to prepare. The Debate topics ranged from local events to national events to history. After the "Regular Debate" in which the two teams put forth their arguments, the Debate was opened to the floor, letting everyone present have their say. Once a week, usually on Friday nights, they conducted their meetings, beginning with the classes which were open to the public. After the critic's report, a five-minute recess was taken to allow the non-members time to leave before the business meeting was begun. The five minute recess developed into a kind of social hour for society members, as well as members of the community and faculty; as the social aspect of Recess grew, so did the length and importance increase as well. Eventually, half hours and hours were delegated for Recess so the membership could mingle and bond.

The literary societies at UNL, however, did not have their own libraries like virtually all earlier societies did. That's not to say a few individuals didn't try. In the April 1874 edition of the Hesperian Student, a small ad stated that the literary societies at the State Normal School (now Peru State College) had formed their own library and asks for ambitious literary society members to form their own as well. No mention is made in any of the literary societies until April 27, 1883. In the Palladian minutes, a member suggested they form a society library. For the next few weeks, the committee elected to research the undertaking reported to the society, but no action was taken. The last business afforded to the library committee was the quoting of a price for books: $65.00.

Literary societies across the country were almost always responsible for some sort of publication, be it a campus magazine or society newsletter. The societies at UNL were no different. Today's Daily Nebraskan once was called the Hesperian Student and was started by the Palladian society. After a year of publication, the Hesperian was turned over to the University. Palladians, however, remained on the editorial board for decades, sharing duties alongside Union society members.