Gregory Clarkand S. Michael Halloran
In Nineteenth-Century Rhetoric in North America, Nan Johnson argues that "an account of the nature of the 19th century rhetorical tradition implies an investigation of the philosophical assumptions, theoretical models, and cultural mandates that shaped 19th century theory and practice" ( 1991, 7). The perspective developed in this collection of essays supports that argument but with a significant modification: Philosophy and theory are not, in our view, of the same order as "cultural mandates" but are rather manifestations of culture, perhaps epiphenomena of deeper cultural forces. Together these essays attempt to demonstrate how changes in the theory and practice of rhetoric can be understood in the larger context of cultural change.
Read in terms of the historiographical notion of transformation developed in our introductory essay, these essays also attempt to show that while rhetoric continued to function throughout the nineteenth century as public discourse -- that is, as a means of constructing and enacting citizenship -- the nature of the American public(s) changed. And so, consequently, did the forms and forums of rhetoric, in ways that problematize the very idea of "public discourse." We will return to question of what is to count as public discourse, but first we must turn once more to theoretical language provided by Kenneth Burke.
In A Grammar of Motives, Burke defines transformation as referring to "a qualitative shift in the nature of motivation" that occurs through the process of changing identifications ([ 1945] 1969, 357). In A Rhetoric of Motives, he notes that such changes in identification often occur when "a specific activity makes one a participant in some social or economic class" ([ 1950] 1969, 28). The example he delights in using is the shepherd who cares for the sheep: "The shepherd, qua shepherd, acts for the good of the sheep, to protect them from discomfiture and harm. But he may be 'identified' with a project that is raising the