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Letters to Power

Public Advocacy Without Public Intellectuals

By Samuel McCormick

Publication Year: 2011

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v

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pp. vii

This project has benefited from many readers. David J. Depew, James P. McDaniel, and John Durham Peters provided crucial encouragement at its outset and invaluable feedback during its early stages of development. Barbara A. Biesecker, Kristine L. Muñoz, Bruce E. Gronbeck, and Daniel M. Gross waded through substantial portions of the work in progress. ...

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Chapter 1 Minor Political Rhetoric, Major Western Thinkers

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pp. 1-18

When did “intellectual” become a noun? Isolated instances of the term date from 1652, but it did not enter into popular usage until the 1890s. The catalyst seems to have been the Dreyfus Affair—a decadelong political scandal surrounding the wrongful conviction of a Jewish artillery captain, Alfred Dreyfus. ...

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Chapter 2 Remaining Concealed: Learned Protest Between Stoicism and the State

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pp. 19-51

With one swift pass of the knife, he opened the veins of four wrists. While the blood of his wife pooled freely at her feet, Seneca the Younger refused to hemorrhage. So he severed the arteries of his legs and knees. With blood still escaping slowly, he ordered a stock of hemlock to be prepared. ...

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Chapter 3 Mirrors for the Queen: Exemplary Figures on the Eve of Civil War

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pp. 52-80

Seneca probably knew what he was doing. Rehearsing death, like remaining concealed and avoiding offense, does not lend itself to abstract philosophical instruction. In keeping with the pedagogical landscape of early-imperial Rome, in which Stoic combinations of axioma and exempla thrived, Seneca relied on vivid imagery and pointed illustrations to guide his readers. ...

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Chapter 4 Performative Publicity: The Critique of Private Reason

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pp. 81-108

The language of Seneca’s Silver Age suffered in the centuries following the Hundred Years’ War. By the 1780s, only one in eleven books published in the German states was written in Latin, down from roughly two out of every three books in the early sixteenth century. ...

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Chapter 5 Hidden Behind the Dash: Techniques of Unrecognizability

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pp. 109-141

Like most oral defenses in Golden Age Denmark, that of Søren Kierkegaard’s 1841 dissertation “On the Concept of Irony” was performed in Latin. Unlike other mid-nineteenth-century defenses, however, it attracted a remarkably large and hostile audience. In addition to two official opponents, a handful of educated elites came forward to challenge the young Kierkegaard. ...

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6 Oppositional Politics in the Age of Academia

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pp. 142-169

Imperial Rome, feudal France, Enlightenment Prussia, and Golden Age Denmark have little in common with one another. Nor do any of these historical periods bear a striking resemblance to our own. Nevertheless, as we have seen, the specific rhetorical situations in which Seneca, Christine, Kant, and Kierkegaard intervened have a secret affinity with the relations of power in which many of today’s learned advocates now find themselves. ...


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pp. 171-189


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pp. 191-197

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052328
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271050737

Publication Year: 2011