The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Penn State University Press
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I acknowledge, with gratitude, permission to use revised versions of earlier publications. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 have been adapted from, respectively, “Neoliberal Epideictic: Rhetorical Form and Commemorative Politics on September 11, 2002,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 92 (2006): 1–26; “The Art of Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History,” ...
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Memory is unavoidably, and sometimes maddeningly, inconstant. It sustains a sense of the past in bewilderingly protean ways. Shelley’s “Ozymandias” commemorates the ruins of a once-grandiose edifice of memory—a colossus intended to so impressively amplify the fame of Ramses the Great that his renown would stand undiminished against the erosions of time. The massive idol promised to immortalize its subject in such grandeur that even ...
Part 1: Forgetting in Public Life: An Idiomatic History of the Present
1. The Two Rivers, Past and Present
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I contend that one cannot understand in full the nature of prevailing rhetorical resources for assigning significance to forgetting in public culture without studying their patent family resemblance to traditional tropes and figures of forgetting. The textual sources of these tropes and figures—all manner of intellectual, spiritual, and artistic reflections on memory and its fortunes in the Western tradition—are legion. The present chapter provides ...
2. Forgetting Without Oblivion
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The symbolism of oblivion hasn’t always been used to the detriment of forgetting (at least not intentionally). A host of past and present thinkers have employed the dark imagery of forgetting in order to assert its conventionally unacknowledged merits; however, such putatively affirmative treatments of forgetting as willed oblivion, symbolic erasure, or strategic amnesia assign ...
Part II: Public Forgetting: Alternate Histories, New Heuristics
3. Hallowed Ground, Hollow Memory: Rhetorical Form and Commemorative Politics on September 11, 2002
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Public commemorations influence collective thought and behavior by assigning normative meaning to signal dimensions of the communal past. Regardless of such authority, however, traditional state-sponsored commemorations fail as often as they succeed in their ostensible purpose: to enrich public understanding of the past and to stimulate robust civic participation in adherence to its lessons. “Being told to remember,” Margalit ...
4. Historical Forgetting: John W. Draper and the Rhetorical Dimensions of History
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One logical and patently modern response to the questionable culture of memory documented in Chapter 3 would be to invoke professional history as a corrective to its aesthetic excesses. Throughout modernity and late modernity, professional history has maintained its reputation for supplying nominally unembellished historical fact as a means of counteracting instances of selective revision, obfuscation, or distortion that breed ...
5. Cultural Forgetting: The “Timeless Now” of Nomadic Memories
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Thus begins Quentin Compson’s existential sojourn in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, a literary masterpiece whose true subject, more than any character, may be the poignant influence of memory on the experiences of its several narrators. Faulkner’s plot is comprised of four sections, each with a different narrator relating the events of four different days. The echoes of the past suffuse the various narratives, as if the nature ...
6. Moral and Political Forgetting: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural
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Abraham Lincoln’s rhetoric of moral and political forgetting in his signature wartime addresses, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, resolve lingering questions raised by the examples of public forgetting previously analyzed in this book. Lincoln’s speeches evince a more refined framework of historical judgment than John W. Draper’s ambitious program of historical forgetting. They also inaugurate, in contrast to the Gypsy ethic ...
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Forgetting has a bad reputation. The worry that it typically inspires is a product of the language that ancients and moderns alike have used to describe it. The disconsolate trope of oblivion is a common linguistic denominator spanning the many troubling depictions of forgetting in historical as well contemporary discourses on memory, history, and mortality. One of Shakespeare’s ...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010