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Title:A physiological definition of style: science, religion, and women���s writings in the early American republic
Author(s):Vorhies, Heather
Director of Research:Mortensen, Peter L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mortensen, Peter L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):O'Gorman, Ned; Markley, Robert; Underwood, Ted
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
physiological psychology
eighteenth century
religious enthusiasm
Abstract:The world of the early American Republic was surprisingly inter-connected: ideas, people, and text traveled in the name of Christianity. This curious combination of rhetoric and science in the service of God during the early American Republic is the heart of my dissertation project. My dissertation brings together early American evangelical Protestantism, Enlightenment rhetoric, and Benjamin Rush’s physiological psychology in an analysis of transatlantic religious writing, speaking, and reading practices in the Atlantic world. Using Methodist women's spiritual journals, copybooks, and correspondence as my primary sources, I argue that the mental experience of persuasion is in fact a bodily one. I thereby question current assumptions about Enlightenment rhetoric, namely that it fostered no real changes or improvements to rhetorical theory. I contend that Enlightenment rhetoric did indeed effect deep changes in rhetorical theory. Based on evidence of the early American Republic’s understanding of Enlightenment rhetorical and scientific theory, we can see 1) rhetoric as epistêmê, or a system of knowledge, rather than technê, skills or craft, 2) a deeply body-dependent concept of the mind that comes to light in evangelical Protestantism’s practice of enthusiasm, and therefore, 3) a canon of style that was essential (and continues to be essential) to cognition. Thus, I redefine what the canon of style does, rather than what style looks like, in practice in early America. Recently, scholars in Rhetoric and Composition have renewed the field's interest in style and stylistics. The field largely ignored style for the past two decades, and marked those historical periods of rhetoric that were invested in the canon of style as lacking "rhetorical theory." In consequence, contemporary scholars of rhetoric have blamed Enlightenment rhetoric for the prevalence of current-traditional rhetoric, the period of rule-driven linear writing from the latter half of the nineteenth-century into the twentieth, in modern writing education. Positioning Enlightenment rhetoric as a scapegoat for the existence of current-traditional rhetoric robs the Enlightenment of its unique contributions to rhetorical theory, namely style and rhetoric as “the science of communication.” With early American Methodists’ religious writings as a case study, my research leads me to contend that style is not the "dressing-up" of thought or "ornament" of ideas already conceived, but rather is the canon that facilitates cognition.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Heather Blain Vorhies
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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