Relevant Rhetoric

Relevant Rhetoric is a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to revealing the relevance and significance of rhetoric in our lives.













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Spring 2018, Volume 9

Welcome to the Volume 9 of Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of
Rhetorical Studies

We had numerous submissions this year and we are pleased to publish these four essays. Staying true to the mission of Relevant Rhetoric, these essays explore timely topics that cover the world of politics, music, sports, and video games. The first essay is a reconsideration of Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale in our current political climate. The next essay examines NFL Commissioner Goodell's image repair strategies regarding the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. The third essay analyzes the song "Ring of Keys," from the Broadway musical Fun Home, as an exemplar of identification and invitational rhetoric. The final essay explores the rhetorical strategies contained in human rights video games.

Each submission is carefully peer reviewed by members of the Editorial Board. Thank you for your submissions and for your support. We are accepting submissions for consideration for Volume 10 (Spring, 2019) of Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of Rhetorical Studies. To be considered for publication, submissions must be received by October 15, 2018. Please mail submissions and queries to:

Nancy J. Legge, Editor -Relevant Rhetoric.

For submission information, please visit the relevant tab from the menu. If you’re looking for previous volumes/articles, please visit the Archives tab. The other tabs provide information about the journal’s philosophy, submissions for future volumes, and the Editorial Board.

Essays in Volume 9, 2018

Rachel Edford, Revisiting A Handmaid's Tale in the Age of Post-Truth Politics"
--Fictional narratives, like the recent Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1986 dystopia novel A Handmaid’s Tale and the original novel, offer a way to explore real anxieties people face in the age of post-truth politics and the Trump presidency. More specifically, these two texts are worth exploring in relation to Trump’s misogynistic comments and the current assault on women’s rights. Both the television series and book blur the lines between fiction and reality. The loss of women’s rights in the television series and novel mirrors real fears some women today face about losing their reproductive rights in the United States. Kenneth Burke’s theory of dramatism and his discussion of terministic screens provide a useful framework to analyze how language reflects and shapes attitudes towards truth and women’s rights in the new adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale.

William L. Benoit, Roger Goodell's Image Repair on the Ray Rice Suspension
--In 2014 Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulted his fiancé (Janay Palmer) in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. A video showed Rice dragging Palmer out of the elevator, so the NFL suspended Rice for two games. Initially Goodell used minimization and bolstering to justify the 2-game suspension. Critics complained that this punishment was too light, indicating that the NFL did not take domestic violence seriously. About a month later, Goodell deployed two additional strategies: mortification (apology) and corrective action. Phase II of the defense emerged after a second video surfaced showing Rice punching Palmer inside the elevator, the NFL immediately suspended Rice indefinitely. After the initial mistake of suspending Rice for only two games, the defense was generally well-developed.

Valerie Lynn Schrader, “I Know You:” Burkean Identification, Invitational Rhetoric, and Fun Home’s “Ring of Keys”
-–This essay explores how Burkean identification and invitational rhetoric are illustrated in the song “Ring of Keys” in the 2015 Tony award-winning musical Fun Home, based on the life of graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. Through a rhetorical analysis of the song’s lyrics and sheet music, this essay discusses first how the character of Small Alison identifies with a woman she sees at a diner, and second, how the song creates Burkean identification between audience members and Small Alison. Finally, the essay contends that “Ring of Keys” is an example of invitational rhetoric, suggesting that, when used through an invitational rhetoric “offering perspective,” Burkean identification, rather than working in conjunction with persuasion, instead can serve to help audience members learn something about themselves.

Heather Crandall and Carol Cunningham, Playing For Change: Rhetorical Strategies in Human Rights Video Games
-–While video games are often seen as a form of entertainment, an emerging genre of video games are those that advocate for social change. Games for Change’s mission is to “empower game creators and social innovators to drive real-world change using games that help people to learn, improve their communities, and contribute to make the world a better place.” Applying an ideological method of analysis to twenty-seven of these games to evaluate their effectiveness to “drive real world change” about human rights issues. Our findings reveal complications, but overall, promising strategies include games with footage of reality, games that encourage real-life engagement, such as the inclusion of Twitter feeds or encouraging players to send letters to Congress, and games which include a sense of cognitive dissonance where players take on the role of becoming complicit in human rights abuses. Many of these games were designed for educational purposes. When used in the classroom, there is a potential to appeal to younger audiences who may see video games as a preferred medium for social change.