Epideictic Rhetoric and the Literature Classroom?

A couple of years ago, when I was solidifying the focus on my dissertation, several topics wandered through my head. One of those topics, which I wish to expand upon through further research, came about as I was preparing a paper for the 2012 Rhetoric Society of America conference. The paper, “Epideictic Rhetoric, Athletes, and Veterans: A National Discourse,” focused on the rhetoric surrounding Pat Tillman’s death in 2004 and Ted Williams’s passing in 2002 in relation to a post-9/11 American existence. In preparing for that presentation, I was also in the process of reading James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), Alice Walker’s Meridian (1976), and other novels.  As I read these novels, which mostly focus on the Civil Rights movement, I began to notice the ways that epidiectic rhetoric worked during funeral scenes or sermons. This is nothing unusual within African American literature or literature in general; however, it made me view these scenes in relation to classical rhetoric and the three genres of discourse that Aristotle presents in Rhetoric: deliberative, judicial, and epideictic. 

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