Neoliberal epideictic: Rhetorical form and commemorative politics on September 11, 2002

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Abstract

Public memorial services held in New York City on September 11, 2002, marked the most important U.S. civic commemoration of the present era. Numerous popular and academic critics excoriated speakers on that day for commemorating the occasion with commemorative declamations instead of offering original speeches. This essay contends that assessing these unusual public eulogies according to post-Romantic conceptions of rhetorical practice overlooks the often powerful role of formulaic speech in shaping the politics of civic commemoration. The essay accordingly argues that state eulogies on the first anniversary of September 11 exemplify the emergence of neoliberal epideictic. Ritualized public praise of neoliberal ideals increasingly constitutes the normative speech of our most important civic ceremonies. The essay concludes that neoliberal epideictic defines citizens' involvement in partisan affairs and recognition of sociopolitical difference or inequity as irreverent means of sustaining civic memory, tradition, and virtue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Volume92
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education

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