American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources

American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources

American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources

American Orators of the Twentieth Century: Critical Studies and Sources

Synopsis

This work provides detailed analyses of the methods and effects of oratory, and perspectives on the major speeches of 58 of the nation's most memorable voices and the roles they played in shaping historical events. Of particular concern in each essay are the distinctive characteristics of the orator, such as qualities of style and delivery, use of persuasive techniques, method of speech, preparation, and reliance on speech writers. Critical assessment is made of each speaker's impact on the American social, legal, and political scenes, and each essay closes with a summary evaluation of the orator's negative or salutary influence on American values and democracy. Appended to the essays are lists of information sources including research collections as well as selected critical studies, anthologies, and biographies. A companion volume covers American orators before 1900. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Excerpt

The focus of this book is on American political oratory of the twentieth century. Its companion volume, American Orators before 1900: Critical Studies and Sources, focuses on pre-twentieth century speakers. In both works, we define political oratory as discourse that treats the constitutional, social, theological, moral and partisan political concerns of the American people in a free and open society. This book assembles fifty-eight essays on the oratorical careers of influential men and women and points to the materials students and scholars of public address require for their research.

Political discourse concerns scholars of politics and government, rhetoric and public address, U.S. history, journalism, the electronic media, and other related subjects. The roots of this multidisciplinary interest reach back to Aristotle, who observed that rhetoric exists at the nexus between politics and ethics. One reason why political discourse continues to interest a diverse group of scholars is that it exemplifies the rhetorician's craft. Political oratory reflects the remarkably subtle and complex rhetorical choices speakers make. The principal allure of political oratory as a study is its continued significance in modern life. One has only to read a sampling of the essays in this book to appreciate how oratory has continued to be a potent means of persuasion.

We use the term orators in the title of the book because the careers and reputations of the individuals considered have been established and influenced by their oratory. The term fits some of the figures represented in this book better than others. A number of speakers examined in this book have spoken for ignoble causes or have given unsound advice to their listeners. Orators of this century-- of every other century--have appealed to the best and worst inclinations of their audiences. To put the matter in terms Richard Weaver used in his interpretation of Plato Phaedrus, some orators have moved their audiences toward the good, some have moved them toward the bad, and some have failed to move them at all. We have included speakers from all three categories because they have contributed to the history of American public address. It would be intellectually dishonest and academically unwise to exclude any type from critical review.

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