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Rhetoric and man's best friend : culture, narrative, and the voices of dogs

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jean Lorschieder-House (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site: http://library.uncw.edu/
Advisor
Don Bushman

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the significance and implications of texts written from the points of view of companion animals. Companion animals, particularly dogs, historically and currently play an important role in American culture. Studies in sociology and behavioral psychology explain the symbiotic human-dog relationship and its associated emotional ties. People commonly assign dogs human personalities and values, assignations that are supported by science as well as our tendency to value the cultural narrative of Man’s Best Friend. Voice, a tool central to rhetoric, is often attributed to these animals in various texts. We see voice attributed to animals in children’s literature, a foundation of literacy, and animals that speak in the first person are also utilized to persuade readers to act in both liberatory and consumer situations. Liberatory texts that use the personal pronoun “I” include argumentative essays about animal rights, narratives in free publications that encourage readers to adopt homeless animals, and letters asking for support of local humane societies. Consumer texts in which animals are the speakers include advertisements in various media as well as articles that are included in pet product catalogues. Rhetorical acts in which dogs and other companion animals are assigned voice are significant in terms of critical literacy and economic citizenship. Critical consumers’ decisions and beliefs may be informed by rationality as well as narrative, and conscientious economic citizens can employ critical reading strategies to counter scotosis, “rationalized acts of selective blindness that occur by allowing certain information to be discounted or unexamined” (Mathieu 112-113). Through critical literacy and conscientious economic citizenship, hegemony, including the domination of the Man’s Best Friend narrative to fulfill consumerist agendas, can be opposed. A critical reader of the liberatory and consumer texts examined here must look at those texts from multiple perspectives and question who the actual rhetor is, what that rhetor’s agenda is, why that rhetor is recycling the Man’s Best Friend cultural narrative, and what value lies in that narrative.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Keywords
Personification in literature, Point of view (Literature)
Subjects
Personification in literature
Point of view (Literature)