Oratorical style and performance in the epideictic speeches of American presidents

Source document: Brno studies in English. 2014, vol. 40, iss. 1, pp. [227]-241
  • ISSN
    0524-6881 (print)
    1805-0867 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
Epideictic speeches have often tended to be overlooked in rhetorical studies as texts that are merely ornamental in nature and function; however, their apparent innocuousness may conceal a subtle, cumulative role in political persuasion and consensus-formation. This article discusses the rhetorical style of epideictic memorial speeches by American presidents. Drawing on rhetorical scholars from Aristotle to Jakobson and Burke, the author considers the poetic function of language. In epideixis, there is a strong rhetorical integration of text, audience, performance and environment. Even in prosaic political contexts, language can be deployed poetically, and linguistic choices by political speakers contribute to the evaluation by the audience of a speaker's charisma. Using memorial speeches as an example of literary/non-literary hybridity, the author observes that the key persuasive element in epideixis is its poetic predictability.
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