Voices in the Wilderness: Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric

Patricia Roberts-Miller


Voices in the Wilderness: Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric

Voices in the Wilderness: Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric

  • Title: Voices in the Wilderness: Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric
  • Author: Patricia Roberts-Miller
  • ISBN: 9780817309398
  • Page: 140
  • Format: Hardcover



What has gone wrong with discourse and deliberation in the United States It remains monologic, argues Patricia Roberts Miller in Voices in the Wilderness, which traces America s dominant form of argumentation back to its roots in the rhetorical tradition of 17th century American Puritans A work of composition theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural criticism, this volumeWhat has gone wrong with discourse and deliberation in the United States It remains monologic, argues Patricia Roberts Miller in Voices in the Wilderness, which traces America s dominant form of argumentation back to its roots in the rhetorical tradition of 17th century American Puritans A work of composition theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural criticism, this volume ultimately provides not only new approaches to argumentation and the teaching of rhetoric, composition, and communication but also an original perspective on the current debate over public discourseBoth J rgen Habermas and Wayne Booth two of the most influential theorists in the domain of public discourse and good citizenry argue for an inclusive public deliberation that involves people who are willing to listen to one another, to identify points of agreement and disagreement, and to make good faith attempts to validate any disputed claims The Puritan voice crying in the wilderness, Roberts Miller shows, does none of these things To this individual of conscience engaged in a ceaseless battle of right and wrong against greedy philistines, all inclusion, mediation, and reciprocity are seen as evil, corrupting, and unnecessary Hence, the voice in the wilderness does not in any real sense participate in public deliberation, only in public pronouncement.Arguing that our culture s continuing affection for the ethos of the voice crying in the wilderness is one of our troubling inheritances from the early American ambivalence to public discourse including the Puritan denigration of rhetoric Roberts Miller contends that the monologic discourse of the Puritans in fact contains within it arguments for dialogism Thus, the history of rhetoric can provide much richer fields for reimagining discourse than heretofore credited Roberts Miller concludes by extending her findings into their practical applications for argumentation in the public sphere and in the composition classroom.


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