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Idea of Identification, The

Gary C. Woodward

Publication Year: 2003

Illustrated with interesting examples drawn from politics and art, The Idea of Identification draws on classical social and rhetorical theories to establish a systematic framework for understanding the varieties and forms of identification. Woodward references a variety of contexts in contemporary life to explore the rhetorical conditions that create powerful and captivating moments. By invoking the influential ideas of Kenneth Burke, George Herbert Mead, Joshua Meyrowitz and others, he shows how the rhetorical process of identification is separate from psychological theories of identity construction. Woodward concludes with an argument that film theory has perhaps offered the most vivid descriptive categories for understanding the bonds of identification.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Communication Studies


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Title Page and Copyright Page

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pp. i-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xii

As the umbrella term for the sensation of shared experience, “identification” encompasses a physiology, a psychology, and a strong social dimension. The intellectual history of the term is perhaps most closely associated with Sigmund Freud. But the generative ideas for this book follow a different thread that originates most...

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Chapter 1: Origins of an Idea

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pp. 1-19

Identification can be given any one of many characterizations: common ground, inhabiting, projecting, becoming, associating, connecting, and so on. In cinematic terms, identification seems to create a momentary freeze frame: a temporary pause in a world unfolding at twenty-four frames a second. In that short space the...

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Chapter 2: Conceptualizing Identification: Extensions of a Burkean View

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pp. 21-43

From a communications perspective, arguably the most important theorist of identification was Kenneth Burke, whose influence on rhetorical and cultural criticism has been enormous. Burke’s lifelong speculations on the mediating nature of language was influenced by the intellectual firmament of his time. Writing his...

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Chapter 3: Identification, Celebrity, and the Hollywood Film

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pp. 45-69

Virtually every form of narrative offers the potential to be a mirror of the self. In a process that sometimes defies simple explanations, we establish emotional connections with characters and circumstances that seem to mimic our own. The rewards of narrative include the chance to recognize the familiar in a new setting, and the...

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Chapter 4: Serenades to the Resistant: Successful Uses of Identification

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pp. 71-95

The very core of our sociality resides not just in our consciousness of others, but in our capacity to partly inhabit the “place” of someone else. For example, we accept the fact that novelists and dramatists can construct plausible characters very different from themselves. The iconic figures of Harry Potter, Hercule Poirot, Tracy...

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Chapter 5: Misidentification and its Sources

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pp. 97-119

In his furtive run for the White House in 1992, Texas industrialist Ross Perot created the rhetorical equivalent of a train wreck in what should have been a routine address at the national convention of the NAACP. Politicians seeking the presidency know that the venerable civil rights organization is an essential stop. It offers...

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Chapter 6: Identification and Commitment in Civic Culture

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pp. 121-145

To many observers beyond its borders, the idea of Canada must sometimes seem like an implausibility. As a former Prime Minister once observed, the sprawling nation has too much geography and not enough history.1 And therein lies its dilemma. A relatively small population of thirty-one million people live in a necklace...


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pp. 147-169


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pp. 171-176

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486474
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791458198
Print-ISBN-10: 0791458199

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 1 b/w photograph
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in Communication Studies
Series Editor Byline: Dudley D. Cahn See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 56209102
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Idea of Identification, The

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Self -- Social aspects.
  • Identification.
  • Identity (Philosophical concept).
  • Social interaction.
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