Towards a poetics of contemporary public rhetoric: the performer's Need for Platitude and Cliche

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Clark, Tom (2006) Towards a poetics of contemporary public rhetoric: the performer's Need for Platitude and Cliche. International Journal of the Humanities, 4 (2). pp. 15-22. ISSN 1447-9508


This paper asks how we may assess the role of platitude and cliche in the process of composing contemporary public rhetoric. It asks whether these features are necessary components of a grammar of contemporary public rhetoric. It proposes that the most appropriate approach to answering such questions is, counter-intuitively, to investigate contemporary public rhetoric as a species of improvised poetic composition. That requires a focus on the performative context of public rhetoric. This paper's methods of analysis draw explicitly on methods pioneered for the analysis of oral-traditional poetry, especially the concept of 'formulas' in the phraseology and topic selection of rhetorical performers. This paper has two principal aims: (1) to demonstrate that the approach is valid in theory and viable in practice; and (2) to foreshadow a wide-ranging program of research that could apply the theoretical framework it outlines. The paper focuses on the role that formulaic poetics play for composers and performers of public rhetoric. Additionally, this paper foreshadows a need to explain the role of formulaic poetics in audience interpretations of public rhetoric, and in reportage of it.

Item type Article
Official URL
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Communication and the Arts
Historical > RFCD Classification > 420000 Language and Culture
Keywords formulaic poetics, oral tradition, politics, sport, satire
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