Finding the fourth locale: dichotomy challenges in the rhetoric of Barack Obama

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Joseph Telegen (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Beth Huber

Abstract: The historic election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2008 has attracted much interest in the humanities. The narrower lens of rhetorical analysis has yet to explore one of Obama’s most notable inclinations, namely his tendency to challenge existing, binary-based conceptualizations in America’s political climate. Rhetorical scholar Joseph Telegen will explore the manner through which this effective communicator complicates existing dichotomies, observing that the now-President never attempts to negate these dualisms, even when questioning their simplicities. Through detailed scrutiny of three “Obama Texts” (the speeches entitled “Out of Many, One” and “A More Perfect Union” and the memoir Dreams from My Father), Telegen will show the means through which Obama “maintains and improves” (to use Wayne Booth’s term) these polarized understandings. Through three discernible methods, The Alteration Technique, The Vision Technique, and The Empathy Technique, the rhetor complicates an existing binary, prior to the arrival upon a nuanced position that embraces neither polarity and refuses to settle for a banal 50-50 compromise between the two extremes. This rhetorical arrival is (what Telegen calls) a “Fourth Locale.” This writing will also discuss scenarios in which these Techniques “play out”: Barack Obama’s misrepresented exchange with “Joe the Plumber,” the website that has, to an extent, mass-marketed the concept of “community organizer” (which Dreams from My Father gave visibility), and the recent challenge of the Health Care Reform bill. Also included will be a proposed rekindling of the deeply controversial Ebonics debate. These will all be included in order to connect Obama’s rhetoric to situations in which his strategies were (or could be) applied. Theoretical connections will also be made, most frequently to Wayne Booth’s Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, which, Telegen will argue, finds its edicts satisfactorily applied in Obama’s language approaches. It is hoped that this thesis will reveal the importance of “Finding a Fourth Locale” as a means of promoting dialogues which both arrive upon “warrantable” positions and open the door to subsequent, open dialogues. Obama’s rhetoric can be credited as promoting such discourse, and thus can be seen as highly constructive.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Dichotomy, Memoir, Obama, Oratory, Politics
Obama, Barack -- Oratory
Obama, Barack -- Literary art
Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 21st century
Communication in politics -- United States -- History -- 21st century
Political oratory -- United States -- History -- 21st century

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