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Medieval rhetoric and civic identity

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Rhetoric has traditionally enjoyed a close connection with ideals of citizenship. Yet, the rhetorical traditions of the medieval period have generally been described as divorced from civic life, concerned instead with theories of composition in specific genres (such as letters

Rhetoric has traditionally enjoyed a close connection with ideals of citizenship. Yet, the rhetorical traditions of the medieval period have generally been described as divorced from civic life, concerned instead with theories of composition in specific genres (such as letters and sermons) and with poetics. This view is the product of historiographical approaches that equate rhetoric either theories and practices of speech and writing intended for state-sponsored civic forums, or alternatively with rules governing future speech or literary production. Consequently, the prevailing view of the medieval period in rhetorical studies is a simplified one that has not evolved with changing practices of analysis in the field of rhetorical studies. This dissertation contends that by employing alternative modes of historiography, historians of rhetoric gain a more accurate conception of medieval rhetoric’s civic roles, revealing the discipline’s role in shaping the individual and their relationship to civic and political institutions.

Organized around an introduction, a broad discussion of later medieval rhetoric and political thought (950-1390), four case studies, and a conclusion, this dissertation begins by identifying historiographical trends that have associated medieval rhetoric with technical treatises, minimizing connections to civic life. Challenging these assessments through a close reading of texts of rhetorical theory, political philosophy, and technical treatises, it contends that medieval rhetoric influenced activities such as grammatical education, didactic art, and political theory to inform practices of citizenship. Focusing specifically on representations of labor, this dissertation show that these venues idealized the political participation of manual laborers within an otherwise discursive theory of civic life that drew from both Aristotelian and Ciceronian sources.

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2017

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Between Remembering and Forgetting: US Public Memory of the Frontier in Buildings, Objects, and Videogames

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This dissertation examines the “remembering-forgetting dialectic,” or a common assumption that remembering and forgetting are antithetical acts with opposing values in a public (Blair et al 18). More specifically, it examines this dialectic within the context of settler colonialism, which

This dissertation examines the “remembering-forgetting dialectic,” or a common assumption that remembering and forgetting are antithetical acts with opposing values in a public (Blair et al 18). More specifically, it examines this dialectic within the context of settler colonialism, which other scholars have noted is marked by the pervasive “forgetting” (Shotwell 37) and “erasure” (Stuckey 232) of the violent, genocidal acts that enabled a settler-colonial nation to develop. To examine this dialectic’s appearance and high stakes in that “forgetting” epistemic context, I analyzed US public memory of the Frontier, a historic space that references the United States’ settler-colonial westward expansion and a symbolic space that has lasting ties to hegemonic constructions of American civic identity. To do so, I ask, What does public memory of the Frontier suggest about the remembering-forgetting dialectic? To address this research aim, I analyzed three sites that engage in Frontier memory work: (1) the Foy Proctor Historical Park, an outdoor exhibit focused on ranching history at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas; (2) Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience, an exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona that documents the experiences of American Indian students who attended off-reservation boarding schools; and (3) The Oregon Trail, a videogame that simulates a mid-nineteenth century pioneer’s journey across the Frontier. In my analysis, I identified the site’s public memory narrative, discussed how the site rhetorically builds that narrative, and considered the site’s efforts to encourage visitors to identify with the portrayed history. My results show that: (1) the Foy Proctor Historical Park perpetuates a settler-colonial narrative through its rhetorical invention of a Frontier landscape, (2) Remembering Our Indian School Days challenges the “forgetting” and “erasure” of settler-colonial memory through extensive documentation efforts, and (3) The Oregon Trail reproduces an interactive, settler-colonial narrative by positioning players into role-playing as pioneers. I ultimately argue common assumptions about the functionality of remembering and forgetting in a public do not account for the epistemic complexity shown within these sites; the remembering-forgetting dialectic thus remains a significant topic in public memory studies.

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2021