The Rhetorical Career of Cesar Chavez

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Although born into one of the least powerful segments of American society, César Chávez led the farm-labor movement to unprecedented heights. His powerful effect on audiences is well known, but award-winning scholars John C. Hammerback and Richard J. Jensen offer the first explanation of how Chávez achieved that effect.

Although other studies of Chávez exist, none has examined so thoroughly his rhetoric nor analyzed in depth such a large number of Chávez's own texts—scores of which have previously been unstudied.

Chávez was an indefatigable speaker, writer, and non-discursive communicator who developed a well-thought-out approach to his rhetorical discourse and placed his speaking and writing at the very center of his career. By merging thought and character in his themes, arguments, and explanations, and in his first and second personae, Chávez was able to identify with the character of his listeners. That identification induced many audience members to support Chávez's agenda for union activism.

The authors have developed a model "to help explain Chávez's startling transformation of some audiences and persuasion of others." Hammerback and Jensen reveal that Chávez's world view motivated him to work tirelessly and directed him to the particular rhetorical qualities and techniques that characterized his discourse. The authors also demonstrate Chávez's surprising effectiveness as a rhetor despite his soft-spoken style, uncharacteristic of most powerful orators.

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Editorial Reviews

Marc Grossman
“John Hammerback and Richard Jensen offer the most complete and insightful look to date at César Chávez’s life and work through his spoken and written words. For me, reading their book is like turning the pages of a family photo album; it brings back many memories of both good times and bad. What shines through is a man whose life affirmed Gandhi’s conviction that 'in a gentle way you can shake the world.’”--Marc Grossman, communications director, United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO, and former press secretary and aide to César Chávez
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585443024
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

John C. Hammerback is head of the department of communication at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and past president of the Western States Communication Association.Richard J. Jensen lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hammerback and Jensen separately and together have written some fifty scholarly articles and chapters and have collaborated on two other communication and rhetoric books.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 3
Chapter 1 The Making of a Rhetor and a Movement 11
Chapter 2 Chavez's Conception of Rhetorical Communication: "Nothing Changes until the Individual Changes" 24
Chapter 3 The Rhetorical Criticism of Reconstitutive Discourse: A Model for Analyzing Chavez's Public Address 44
Chapter 4 Finding His Message and Forming His Union, 1963-1970 62
Chapter 5 Rhetorically "Working towards Creating the New Man": Chavez Maintains the Movement from 1970 to 1975 101
Chapter 6 The Merger of Man and Message: Rhetorical Techniques of a Teacher of Truth 125
Chapter 7 Triumphs and Defeats in the Ongoing Quest: "To Enable Common People to Do Uncommon Things" 143
Chapter 8 The Difficult Last Decade, the Unfinished Last Boycott: "To Encourage a Multitude of Simple Deeds" 156
Chapter 9 Conclusion 189
Notes 197
Bibliography 223
Index 237
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