Relevant Rhetoric

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archives

Volume 6
Spring 2015


Jimmie Manning, The Rhetorical Function of Laugh Tracks: Examining Queer Shame in Will & Grace and Roseanne”

––Popular comedic texts have powerful, if not always visible, political implications. This power extends to personal-political topics and issues such as queer identities and relationships. Recognizing humor’s ability to shape discourses, in this essay I examine coming out story arcs from the situation comedies Will & Grace and Roseanne. This analysis indicates that Will & Grace, a program traditionally cited as sophisticated and queer-affirmative, uses humor at the expense of queer stereotypes. Alternately, Roseanne, a show criticzed for using queer characters for shock value, offers a model for queer acceptance. The study also demonstrates how laugh tracks can be used in rhetorical analysis of sitcoms. It also questions what other elements of an enduring text might need to be questioned in order to consider its legacy.

Pearce Durst, “The Word-less Rhetoric of Leviathan: Observational Ethos in the Digital Age"

-–This essay analyzes one experimental documentary film that obscures or completely avoids the use of words. Leviathan (2012) relies predominantly on aural and visual rhetoric to convey a fragmented, polyphonic, and critically open-ended narrative. It uses numerous small and lightweight digital cameras to extend an “observational mode” of surveillance—where audiences witness the many operations of an industrial fishing boat as a “fly on the wall.” By abstaining from dialogue, the word-less landscape of the film creates persuasive openings for audiences to actively decode meaning and significance.

William Benoit, “Image Repair Analysis of Barbie’s '#Unapologetic' OpEd"

–In February of 2014, Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit issue. This one included something unusual: Pictures of Barbie dolls in swimsuits. Criticism arose immediately and Mattel responded with an OpEd attributed to Barbie, titled “#Unapologetic.” Persuasive messages can serve multiple purposes. Barbie’s appearance in SI and the OpEd were obviously part of a publicity stunt (Barbie sales had been falling) yet the OpEd also worked to repair the image of Barbie (and of Mattel). This essay applies Image Repair Theory to this unusual instance of corporate image repair. The defense relied mainly on denial and bolstering; criticism of Barbie’s accusers also was implied. This defense may have helped reinforce the attitudes of those who liked Barbie but it is unlikely to have changed many minds of those who thought the doll was a poor role model; Barbie sales continued to drop.

Valerie Lynn Schrader, "'Infinite Thousands': The National Museum of the American Indian’s 'Invasion Wall' and the Burkean Pentad"

–This article examines the Invasion Wall of the “Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories” Exhibit of the National Museum of the American Indian through the lens of the Burkean pentad. Through a rhetorical analysis of the wall, I argue that the National Museum of the American Indian employed a scene-act pentadic ratio in this section of the exhibit, placing emphasis on the act of spreading disease and on the locations to which disease spread. Furthermore, it is suggested that the application of a different ratio may have made a stronger, more accurate historical statement, but it would have done so at the risk of creating a public memory that may have alienated some visitors and jeopardized the exhibit’s and the museum’s purpose.

James C. Bunker, "Deliberative Expediency and Public Scholarship: Addressing the Problem of Timeliness and Credibility in Political Deliberation"

–This essay provides an entry point for scholars who see utility in contextualizing and establishing the credibility of public argument to facilitate citizen evaluation of controversies and to empower public deliberation. It does this by establishing the importance of deliberative expediency and how scholars can overcome issues associated with timeliness to achieve presence in deliberation. It also discusses how archival technological changes enable public scholars to expediently introduce historical argument into contemporary debates. Finally, it revisits the work of Robert P. Newman to discuss how his theory of source credibility is still relevant to public scholars seeking to facilitate deliberation for public audiences.

Volume 5
Spring 2014

Amber M. Chiang, “Sartorial Scrutiny of First Lady Fashion: Evaluation of Media Coverage Inequities Involving Female Figures in Politics”

–This study looks at disparate standards of media coverage of male and female political figures in an attempt to reveal gender bias in political media discourse. For the purposes of evaluation, media coverage inequities between two political cycles will be reviewed: the 2008 presidential campaign and the 2012 presidential campaign. The media coverage of current first lady Michelle Obama, former first lady and United States Secretary of State lady Hillary Clinton, Ann Romney, and Governor Sarah Palin will be evaluated for occurrences of fashion commentary as part of legitimate political discourse by mainstream news media outlets.

Mark Meister, “The Corporate Rainmaker Persona“ 

-Corporate social responsibility literature focuses on economic benefits, stakeholder responses, and legitimacy.  This project departs from those traditions and offers a framework for analyzing corporate claims rather than analyzing the outcomes.  I present the Corporate Rainmaker Persona (CRP) in relation to Cicero’s republican rhetorical style and conclude that Cicero’s rhetoric is exemplified in corporate social responsibility claims.  I discuss the relevance of the CRP and profile its characteristics by referencing 2013 corporate social responsibility reports from Cargill, Ford Motor Company, and IKEA. The implications of CRP discourse as analyzed and discussed include a growing corporate dependency that contributes to both the “death” of environmentalism and citizenship.

Jeffrey Delbert and William L. Benoit, “Persuasive Attack in Music: A Rhetorical Analysis of ‘Fighting Trousers’ and ‘The Very Model of a Mad Attorney General’“

–This essay analyzes two diss songs, Professor Elemental’s “Fighting Trousers” and A. Barton Hinkle’s “Mad Attorney General.” Utilizing similar form and substance, these persuasive attacks effectively utilize multiple strategies for enhancing the offensiveness of their opponents’ alleged acts and increasing responsibility for their action s. Representing two different musical genres, these songs illustrate how artists direct their appeals both at the targets of their attack, as well as for the public. Both Professor Elemental’s and Hinkle’s songs repeat key ideas, forming motifs that run throughout a majority of diss songs in the music industry. Such songs are well received by the listening public, as they provide an excellent outlet to produce effective attacks on wide range of adversaries.

Volume 4
Spring 2013


William L. Benoit, “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue”: Rock and Roll’s Double Standard for Romantic Relationships

–This essay analyzes two rhetorical artifacts from the early 1960′s: popular rock and roll songs by one artist that tell stories about romantic relationships. I argue that these songs reflected and promulgated an inappropriate double standard of appropriate norms of behavior in dating for men and women. Specifically, a woman who dates more than one man is condemned as a tramp, whereas a man who dates more than one woman is celebrated as a stud.

Eric Sentell, Changing the Channel: Analyzing the Rhetoric of the Fox News Effect

–According to multiple studies, people who obtain their news exclusively from Fox News possess less accurate knowledge of current events than people who do not consume any news sources. In this apolitical analysis, I identify multiple rhetorical strategies that may explain the cause of this peculiar “Fox News effect”: the rhetoric of polarization; presenting a unified point-of-view; rapid redirection; rapid delivery of information; frequent repetition; and decontextualizing claims.

Jill M. Weber, “Needy Families” and “Welfare Cheats”: The Rhetoric of Family Values in the 1961-1962 Welfare Reform Debates

–This essay explores how both conservative and liberal policymakers and advocates invoked family values rhetoric during debates over three key welfare reform policy proposals: the 1961 Aid to Dependent Children—Unemployed Parents (ADC-UP) program, the Kennedy administration’s initiative to temporarily expand federal public assistance benefits to children in two-parent homes where both parents were unemployed; the so-called “Newburgh Plan,” one small city’s plan to reduce welfare costs and minimize the number of families on the city’s welfare roll; and the Public Welfare Amendments of 1962, the Kennedy administration’s proposals to extend theADC-UP program, expand welfare coverage, and increase funding for rehabilitative services. Although the participants offered competing depictions of welfare families, both liberals and conservatives contributed to a negative image of impoverished single-parent families as morally deficient and socially undesirable. In the process, they laid the foundation for even more intrusive governmental intervention in family life in the future.

James Dimock, Daniel Cronn-Mills, and Kirsten Cronn-Mills, Climbing Brokeback Mountain: A Wilderness-Civilization Dialectic Reading

–Brokeback Mountain altered America’s cultural landscape. We approach the film from a critical rhetoric perspective, demonstrating how frame selection is a rhetorical act that furthers specific textual interpretations. Our approach illuminates distinctions between a natural-artificial dialectic and a wilderness-civilization dialectic. We argue the natural-artificial dialectic limits the narrative and constricts any understanding of the film. The wilderness-civilization dialectic provides, we contend, a more robust, compelling, and ambiguous space for reading the text.

Bruce Loebs, Charisma: The Key to Hitler’s Rhetoric

–This essay describes Hitler’s unquestioned skill as a public speaker by explaining how he projected himself as a charismatic leader. Hitler once declared, “everything I have accomplished resulted from persuasion.” Rhetoric was the key to Hitler’s success. Charisma was the key to Hitler’s rhetoric. I will describe several topics relevant to his ethos, illustrate Hitler’s acknowledged skill as an orator, and, using German sociologist/economist Max Weber’s definition and description of charisma, focus on four main characteristics of “the Hitler Myth.”

Volume 3
Spring 2012


Jonathan Hunt, From Cacemphaton to Cher: Foul Language and Evidence in the Rhetorical Tradition

–Although foul language has been a topic of lively discussion by authorities and scholars alike, it has received little attention from rhetoricians. When rhetoricians treat coarse, taboo, or obscene language, the approach is generally normative and pedagogical, foreclosing the possibility that we might, like other fields, see the rhetorical character and impact of foul language.

Jeffrey B. Kurtz, Civility, American Style

–Public anger may be the new zeitgeist of our age. If the incivility at the core of our public talk is familiar, it merits continued scrutiny. Of keen importance is to reflect on rhetorical acts that may challenge our received understandings of civility itself. This essay first situates civility in particular scholarly and historical contexts. I then undertake interpretive readings of incivility and civility as these have been given expression in three recent cases: Representative Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst during President Barack Obama’s September 2009 healthcare address; the rhetorical soundings of Sarah Palin in her 28 August 2010 speech at the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C.; and the intersection of violence and civility in President Barack Obama’s memorial address for the victims of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011. By closely attending to the putative incivility and civility characterizing these cases, I will suggest ways by which authenticity, real pluralism, and rhetorical courage might become new hallmarks of our rhetorical landscape.

James Beitler, Making More of the Middle Ground: Desmond Tutu and the Ethos of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

–This article explores Desmond Tutu’s role in shaping the institutional ethos of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Through analysis of Tutu’s introduction to the commission’s final report, it highlights three distinct middle ground arguments that Tutu uses to construct the commission’s institutional ethos and to appeal to multiple audiences in South Africa simultaneously. Such findings complicate popular conceptions of Tutu’s contributions to the TRC process and highlight strategies that rhetors may employ to persuade politically diverse audiences.

Jason A. Edwards and Liza Anne Cabrel, Managing an Economic Crisis: President Clinton and the Mexican Peso Crisis

–This essay examines President Bill Clinton’s 1995 Mexican Peso Crisis rhetoric. We argue that Clinton managed the crisis through three overarching themes: defining the nature of the crisis, magnifying its potential harms, and promoting solutions to limit its broader impact. The strategies used by Clinton differ from traditional characteristics of crisis rhetoric. These strategies serve as a theoretical basis for examining presidential economic crisis rhetoric. Moreover, this essay provides a deeper appreciation of Clinton’s political legacy in managing the first major crisis in an era of globalization.

Monica Brasted, MoveOn: The Rhetoric of Polarization

–The media environment has changed dramatically since King and Anderson (1971) first articulated their conceptualization of the rhetoric of polarization. With the advent of the user friendly World Wide Web in the 1990s came a new interactive form of media that is now used as a tool by politicians and activists. According to Chadwick, one group that has been successful in creating a network of citizens by using the internet has been MoveOn.org. This paper examines how MoveOn.org has used the rhetoric of polarization within its member emails to create feelings of solidarity amongst themselves and opposition to a common foe.

Justin Eckstein, Client 9: Spitzer and Hypocrisy

–On March 10, 2008, the story broke that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was patronizing the Emperor’s Club V.I.P., a high cost prostitution service. New Yorkers were shocked, disappointed, and upset. Reacting to Spitzer’s affair, national and international newspapers called the Governor a hypocrite. But what exactly is a hypocrite? This paper explores this definitional question, by asking; what constitutes hypocrisy? And, are there different definitions of hypocrisy? A rhetorical analysis of the opinion editorials released in the days between the news of the scandal and Spitzer’s resignation, yielded two different accusations of hypocrisy: exemption, which emphasized his “do as I say, not as I do” attitude; and betrayal, which attempted to hide his contradiction between his words and deeds. I argue that the combination of these two accusations of hypocrisy created an insurmountable exigency, requiring Spitzer to resign.

Sarah Partlow-Lefevre, Bridging the First and Second Waves: Rhetorical Constructions of First Wave Feminism in Ms. Magazine, 1972-1980

–During the second wave of feminism in the United States, writers sought to reclaim feminist history to ground their beliefs. In this essay I argue that Ms. magazine, the first mass mediated feminist periodical in the United States, published articles that rhetorically reproduced the ideals of the first wave of feminism in the United States. I focus on the rhetorical function of these historical constructions for women in the second wave including: the crafting of relationships between first and second wave feminists; the reclaiming of ideas as foundational feminist history; the articulation of points of commonality which allowed second wave feminists to identify themselves with the first wave feminists; and, the construction of first wave activists as heroines who paved the way for the second wave.

Joseph Valenzano III, Conscience of a Conservative (Professor) –Essay featured on the Discussion Forum. Please read and post your comments.


Volume 2
Spring 2011


Kevin McClure, The Rhetoric of Disaster: The Presidential Natural Disaster Address As An Emergent Genre.

–This essay extends and complements prior analyses of the rhetorical presidency by identifying and describing the unique situational and rhetorical features that distinguish presidential natural disaster addresses as a genre, arguing that natural disasters present distinctive circumstances and rhetorical challenges that inspire distinct rhetorical responses. It begins with a critical discussion that examines the unique situational and rhetorical features in presidential natural disaster addresses. Next, a historical synopsis and critical analysis tracks the evolutionary progression of presidential discourse on natural disasters and discusses six emergent substantive elements. Finally, it calls for further rhetorical engagement with the broader phenomena of rhetoric engendered by natural disasters in fields such as the media, politics, and religion.

William F. Harlow, Silence As The U.S. Strategic Response to Nigeria’s Elections.

–The elections in Nigeria in April 2007 resulted in widespread violence and a result generally held to be fraudulent by impartial observers. Nigeria was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in Africa during the Bush presidency, and the U.S. administration was largely silent as failed Nigerian elections transferred power from one member of the ruling party to another. This paper examines the U.S. silence after Nigeria’s 2007 elections and argues that silence is an ineffective persuasive tool unless a foreign state is already inclined to support U.S. policy goals. In this case, silence also set a bad precedent for the 2011 elections.

Nancy Johnson, Christian Bale’s Account of a Profane Tirade: Salvation or “Bale-out?

–Actor Christian Bale was caught on audiotape in an extensive profane tirade toward the director of photography while filming on the set of Terminator Salvation. Seven months later the rant was posted on the Internet. Amidst a surge of multi-media parodies, Bale made a spontaneous call to the morning show of a local Los Angeles radio station to account for his behavior. This essay examines Bale’s account according to Benoit’s image restoration typologies. Bale expressed mortification, and also used a variety of strategies to reduce the offensiveness of the act, which also help serve as an explanation for his behavior. Feedback to his account is examined to help determine its probable success. The strategies in Bale’s account are also compared to accounts of other celebrities Benoit has studied.

Erika Junhui Yi, Globalizing the Locality: A Cultural Comparison of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

–The paper is a case study on Ang Lee’s award-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to illustrate that the process of globalization is not simply Westernization/Americanization, but rather a mutually influential process as suggested in glocalization/hybridization theories. I collected film reviews from both the United States and China from different time periods in order to compare the different reactions from American and Chinese audiences, as well as to observe the changes in attitudes toward the film over time. This paper explores the impact of globalization through two different angles. First, the globalization of a local culture, in this case, the Wuxia genre in China. Second, the acceptance of the globalized and altered version of the original local culture.

Steven D. Cohen, Thomas E. Wei, Daniel C. DeFraia, and Christopher J. Drury, The Music of Speech: Layering Musical Elements to Deliver Powerful Messages.

–Music and speech are both performance arts. While these two art forms may appear distinct, they share an important characteristic: the power to evoke visceral responses from listeners. Our paper examines the relationship between music and speech and identifies five key musical elements that composers and professional speakers can use to elicit specific emotional reactions from their listeners. Specifically, we explore tempo, dynamics, pitch, timbre, and rhythm in the context of selected musical compositions and public speeches and explain how speakers leverage these elements to deliver powerful, enduring messages.

Richard Leo Enos, The Professorial Art of Indirection: A Study of Relevant Rhetoric. –Essay featured on the Discussion Forum. Please read and post your comments.


Volume 1
Spring 2010


Kevin A. Stein, “Jewish Antapologia in Response to Mel Gibson’s Multiple Attempts at Absolution.”

—Many people find racist or discriminatory statements or acts to be more offensive than acts that do not denigrate the character of others, even when those behaviors may be illegal. Is it possible that hateful utterances are so reprehensible that any strategies utilized to counteract their effects are rendered meaningless? This essay discusses Mel Gibson’s attempts to explain or account for his racist comments directed at police officers in Malibu, California. It also examines the Jewish community’s response to Gibson’s comments.

Adria Y. Goldman and Jim A. Kuypers, “Contrasts in News Coverage: A Qualitative Framing Analysis of ‘A’ List Bloggers and Newspaper Articles Reporting on the Jena 6.

—We compare news coverage of the Jena 6 found in “A” list blogs to traditional print news articles. We found that the print articles shared four themes and framed those themes in a similar fashion. Similar themes were found among blog entries, although the framing of those themes broke down along political lines. However, all blogs framed the media’s role in the Jena 6 as negative.

Nancy J. Legge, “The Paradox of Commitment: Jakob Dylan’s Philosophy in ‘Will It Grow.’”

—A rhetorical analysis of the ideas and arguments in Jakob Dylan’s song, “Will It Grow.” In a fractured narrative about farming, Dylan addresses philosophical issues about the nature of commitment and the role of fate vs. free will. The engaged audience supplies warrants about perseverance and resolve, thereby providing ways to manage the paradoxes. Watch live performances of the song on youtube: Nissan Sets and at the Austin City Limits Festival.

William L. Benoit and Jeffrey Delbert, “‘Get A Mac’: Mac vs. PC TV Spots.

—This paper examines the texts of 47 ads advocating Mac computers over PCs: “Get a Mac.” We identified three themes addressing the computers and their operating systems and two focusing on the brands’ personified traits. We evaluate this campaign as effectively conceived and executed. Evidence suggests that it may have contributed to an increase in sales of Mac computers. Watch the Mac ads at Apple.com/getamac/ads.

Bruce Loebs, “Hitler’s Rhetorical Theory.”

—In 1939 Hitler claimed, “I am conscious that I have no equal in the art of swaying the masses.” By examining historical texts, including Hitler’s own writings, this paper articulates numerous components of Hitler’s rhetorical theory. One central element was his belief in the power of the spoken word. This was the starting point for Hitler’s belief that rhetoric would play an indispensable role in his quest for power.