Toward a Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism / Edition 1

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Toward a Civil Discourse examines how, in the current political climate, Americans find it difficult to discuss civic issues frankly and openly with one another. Because America is dominated by two powerful discourses--liberalism and Christian fundamentalism, each of which paints a very different picture of America and its citizens' responsibilities toward their country-there is little common ground, and hence Americans avoid disagreement for fear of giving offence.

Sharon Crowley considers the ancient art of rhetoric as a solution to the problems of repetition and condemnation that pervade American public discourse. Crowley recalls the historic rhetorical concept of stasis--where advocates in a debate agree upon the point on which they disagree, thereby recognizing their opponent as a person with a viable position or belief. Most contemporary arguments do not reach stasis, and without it, Crowley states, a nonviolent resolution cannot occur.

Toward a Civil Discourse investigates the cultural factors that lead to the formation of beliefs, and how beliefs can develop into densely articulated systems and political activism. Crowley asserts that rhetorical invention (which includes appeals to values and the passions) is superior in some cases to liberal argument (which often limits its appeals to empirical fact and reasoning) in mediating disagreements where participants are primarily motivated by a moral or passionate commitment to beliefs.

Sharon Crowley examines numerous current issues and opposing views, and discusses the consequences to society when, more often than not, argumentative exchange does not occur. She underscores the urgency of developing a civil discourse, and through a review of historic rhetoric and its modern application, provides a foundation for such a discourse-whose ultimate goal, in the tradition of the ancients, is democratic discussion of civic issues.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
”A remarkable examination of affective citizenship’s expansions and contractions. . . . An excellent study of the fundamentalist rhetoric that is gaining such powerful influence in American culture, [reaffirms] the power of rhetoric within the civic sphere.”

“In Toward a Civil Discourse, Sharon Crowley creatively rethinks the tools of ancient rhetorical invention in light of postmodern academic theory. With historical precision and theoretical perspicacity, she then incisively analyzes the current impasse in public deliberations between adherents of modern liberalism and Christian apocalyptism. This timely, original contribution to rhetorical studies and contemporary political debate offers a major new statement by one of the most important rhetoricians writing today.”
--Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822959236
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2006
  • Series: Pitt Comp Literacy Culture
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,150,993
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Crowley is professor of English at Arizona State University. She is the author of Composition in the University, The Methodical Memory, and the textbook Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students.
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Table of Contents

1 On (not) arguing about religion and politics 1
2 Speaking of rhetoric 24
3 Belief and passionate commitment 58
4 Apocalyptism 102
5 Ideas do have consequences : apocalyptism and the Christian Right 133
6 The truth is out there : acpocalyptism and conspiracy 165
7 How beliefs change 189
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  • Posted March 29, 2012

    An interesting appeal to the marriage of logic and emotion in creating a convincing rhetoric against fundamentalism.

    This work attempts to find a new way for the liberal mentality to approach the discourse between fundamentalism and reason. Crowley's text takes a serious look into how one could find common ground and create a satisfactorily suasory rhetoric to evoke change and settle difference. The first half of the book does contain some rather heady material regarding rhetoric and it's function with a good deal of new vocab to learn if you are unfamiliar with linguistic studies. But this foundation is worth working through as the final half of the work sufficiently paints the picture of what Crowley believes about how best to approach the issue of fundamentalism in a liberal country. It causes you to think,challenge your boundaries and beliefs, and to reassess the viability of a liberal model of debate in a country where emotional appeal holds such large sway. Overall, it doesn't necessarily deliver an answer that settles the matter of creating a more civil dialogue, but it does make the prospect more possible for its audience. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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