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Literature Review Pt. 1

I chose Rhetoric of Black Revolution by Arthur Smith for my summer reading because at the time, my original Essential Question involved how speech and rhetoric motivates sociopolitical movements. This book is helpful in terms of analyzing elements of rhetoric specific to uniting African Americans in the 20th century, and how they work collectively to demand attention to their civil rights. Significant parts of the book helped shape my understanding of the original essential question regarding how African-American rhetoric is formed initially. Early rhetoric was characterized by aggression against whites, which can be both frightening and hopeful, aggressive and unifying. The book demonstrates the effect of rhetoric, and how it can be can be different in terms of the audience. The rhetorical strategies included “keeping the opponent off balance” by using a militant exaggeration of issues. The rhetoric involved at the time can be characterized through an agitation device, specific in this context: vilification is a method to degrade an opponent’s or person’s actions or idea; objectification channels all of the frustrations of a group into a single ill-defined body such as an institution nation, political party, or race; legitimation acts as a psychological weapon to explain, vindicate, and justify the activists which helps to impute the wrong attitudes to the opposition; Mythification creates a spiritual dynamism for the movement. Religious symbolism can be significant in the Black Revolution, mainly through the paradox that America, as a Christian nation, has contradicted the spirit of the kingdom of God. The theme of this ongoing rhetoric can be significant, such as a common enemy, American hypocrisy,  conspiracy theories, and the unification of the Black community. This book furthered my understanding of the definition of “rhetoric,” which does not limit itself to an element of specific speech, but can also represent the identity of an ongoing movement.


Oxford’s series, A Short Introduction to Rhetoric, takes me back to the traditional discipline of rhetoric. The book introduces several categorizations that relate to the studies of rhetoric and speech writing. The traditional way of examining rhetoric includes logos, ethos, and pathos. Furthermore, according to Toye, oratory can be distinguished as one of three branches: forensic/judicial rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric, and deliberative rhetoric. Toye also provides something as unique as the “five canons” of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, which became my foundation as I crafts my rubric. There were many other examples that Toye created and categorized that provided different lenses through which I could examine my studies. Some methods will be helpful when I present my studies to other students. The book presented a rhetorical analysis of President Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority speech” by explaining how logos, ethos, and pathos together play a role in one specific speech. One concept discussed in the book, “New Rhetorics,” is relevant to my study. New Rhetorics indicates the concept that awareness of social context perceive, distinguishes modern rhetorical scholarship from its forerunners. Through my discussion with my mentor, I understand how the modern products of mass culture can affect how rhetoric is perceived, which forms a strong contrast to how the early Black rhetoricians wielded their craft. The speeches that I am studying now were primarily written and presented in recent decades. One question I began to ask myself is does social media change how speeches and speakers were perceived? But more importantly, New Rhetoric introduces me to the importance of “context,” which I will discuss later.

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