American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism

American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism

American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism

American Rhetoric: Context and Criticism


Nine fresh views of the interconnections of historical, critical, and theoretical scholarship in the field of American rhetoric.

Stephen T. Olsen addresses the question of how to determine the disputed authorship of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech of March 23, 1775.

Stephen E. Lucas analyzes the Declaration of Independence as a rhetorical action, designed for its own time, and drawing on a long tradition of English rhetoric.

Carroll C. Arnold examines the "communicative qualities of constitutional discourse" as revealed in a series of constitutional debates in Pennsylvania between 1776 and 1790.

James R. Andrews traces the early days of political pamphleteering in the new American nation.

Martin J. Medhurst discusses the generic and political exigencies that shaped the official prayer at Lyndon B. Johnson's inauguration.

In "Rhetoric as a Way of Being," Benson acknowledges the importance of everyday and transient rhetoric as an enactment of being and becoming.

Gerard A. Hauser traces the Carter Administration's attempt to manage public opinion during the Iranian hostage crisis.

Richard B. Gregg ends the book by looking for "conceptual-metaphorical" patterns that may be emerging in political rhetoric in the 1980s.


I might as well say right off that I am not an expert in speech communication or rhetoric. In fact, I am something of a certified failure in the field. Twenty-five years ago, my initial graduate school major in theater led to my placement in a minor field in speech and hence to enrollment in an 8:00 A.M. course in persuasive speaking. In this class, undergraduate boys applied Aristotelian principles, as summarized in a few handy paragraphs of a textbook, to problems of romance, politics, and finance.

Some of my best friends are in speech communication, though. I think of Robert Gunderson, a former colleague and fine historian whose study of the election of 1840 is a standard work in two fields. I have thought of him as I read the manuscript of this book because he, like many of these authors, exemplifies the wide-ranging interdisciplinary curiosities that enliven good work in American studies. Another friend is Tom Benson, whom I have known for all those twenty-five years since my flight from persuasive speaking. Tom has always been earnest and judicious and, at the same time, intellectually playful and curious. I think these qualities are evident in this volume. To his praise of that good scholar Eugene E. White let me add my own appreciation of Tom Benson's role as the kind of searching, fair-minded person on whom intellectual life in contemporary universities depends.

This book includes a certain amount of shoptalk about how . . .

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