Title

The Ego-Function of Rhetoric in Leaves of Grass

Presenter Information

Peter Rampa

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC Room 135

Start Date

15-5-2014

End Date

15-5-2014

Keywords

Rhetoric, Whitman, Ego

Abstract

This project presents rhetorical analysis of the function of egotism within Leaves of Grass. There’s a common approach that takes for granted the idea that egotism in Leaves is unavoidably reflective of Walt Whitman’s character—critical discussion, as a result, is often mired by attempts to present egotism as a strength or weakness of the author rather than a feature of the text. By utilizing the rhetorical studies concept of ego-function, this project proposes a conceptual framework that allows for a non-biographical analysis of egotism in Whitman's work. The ego-function of rhetoric is particularly suitable for this task because it identifies the process through which a speaker and listener establish selfhood through verbalized expression. Taken further, the ego-function of rhetoric is useful for examining the language of a social movement and the ways in which a speaker fosters large-scale unification through the shared affirmation of personhood. In other words, egotism comes forward as a crucial component in the persuasive success of poems like "Song of Myself" and "Kosmos." Ultimately I suggest that in order for Whitman's critics to better understand the enduring success of Leaves of Grass, it's imperative that we reposition egotism as a feature of the text and not its author.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Olson, Steve

Additional Mentoring Department

English

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May 15th, 12:00 PM May 15th, 12:20 PM

The Ego-Function of Rhetoric in Leaves of Grass

SURC Room 135

This project presents rhetorical analysis of the function of egotism within Leaves of Grass. There’s a common approach that takes for granted the idea that egotism in Leaves is unavoidably reflective of Walt Whitman’s character—critical discussion, as a result, is often mired by attempts to present egotism as a strength or weakness of the author rather than a feature of the text. By utilizing the rhetorical studies concept of ego-function, this project proposes a conceptual framework that allows for a non-biographical analysis of egotism in Whitman's work. The ego-function of rhetoric is particularly suitable for this task because it identifies the process through which a speaker and listener establish selfhood through verbalized expression. Taken further, the ego-function of rhetoric is useful for examining the language of a social movement and the ways in which a speaker fosters large-scale unification through the shared affirmation of personhood. In other words, egotism comes forward as a crucial component in the persuasive success of poems like "Song of Myself" and "Kosmos." Ultimately I suggest that in order for Whitman's critics to better understand the enduring success of Leaves of Grass, it's imperative that we reposition egotism as a feature of the text and not its author.