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The Context of Human Discourse
A Configurational Criticism of Rhetoric

Eugene E. White


This is a book about how we experience rhetoric. It is about how communication works to effect change in ourselves, in others, and in society and how one may analyze this communication. Above all, it is about the historical and cultural context—what the author calls "configuration"—in which human communication takes place.

The author offers a new way of looking at rhetoric that is more comprehensive, more realistic, and more rewarding than current views. He explains why some persuasion works, why it makes a difference, and why it changes the course of events while other persuasion is merely "sound and fury, signifying nothing." In addition, he provides a method for estimating how well a communicator exploits the available means of persuasion, shows how the method is rooted in understandings of human symbol-using, and gives a model of the method at work.

Eugene E. White has spent his professional life teaching, analyzing, and criticizing rhetoric. He is author or editor of numerous books, including Rhetoric in Transition, Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion, and Basic Public Speaking. He has received the Speech Communication of America's Golden Anniversary Monograph Award and the James A. Winans/Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address.

"This insightful book deserves a place on the bookshelf as well as in the classroom of every serious student of rhetoric, public address, or rhetorical criticism."—Kathleen Jamison, University of Pennsylvania

"[White] seems to me to propose an approach that is not only usable but, because it is so clear, may serve as the basis for advances in scholarly discussions of critical method."—Thomas Benson, Pennsylvania State University

"This book is the work of a mature and distinguished rhetorical scholar who has brought to bear his considerable intellectual powers to produce a major study of the method and functions of critical analysis. Professor White discusses a technical area of investigation comprehensively and clearly; writing as he always does with grace and lucidity, he demonstrates that complex issues need not be obscure. Precision of thought and clarity of style, typical of all of White's work, characterize this excellent book. The study is replete with examples that illuminate aspects of White's approach, but, what is perhaps most singularly impressive, is the extensive consideration of John C. Calhoun's speech of March 4, 1850, to the Senate. This extended treatment illustrates the critic's problems, the questions he or she should ask, the choices to be made—in short, the entire analytical process—as the investigation unfolds. This is a book that can and should be read by both seasoned critics and students—a unique and important accomplishment."—James R. Andres, Indiana University



boook jacket for The Context of Human Discourse


6 x 9
308 pages
ISBN 9780872498174
cloth, $39.95s
Studies in Rhetoric/Communication


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