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Taking issue with recent "post-critical" attempts to valorize the aesthetic aspects of literature, the present article suggests that Lloyd Bitzer's concept of the rhetorical situation is a more productive means to approach the question of the ideological and aesthetic dimensions of literature. Through readings of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Nathaniel Hawthorne's prefatory remarks to Our Old Home, it suggests how the concept of the rhetorical situation may help us bring out the interdependence of the rhetorical and the aesthetic dimensions of the texts in question. Rather than think of text and context as distinct, we had better think of them as joint aspects of a literary situation comprising both. Both texts deal explicitly with the Civil War, but while Lincoln's address turns the conflict into a model for future-directed hope, Hawthorne's remarks turn the war into a problem of the past that refuses to go away.