Oratory in the Age of Obama

A course in rhetoric for the Honors College of Rutgers Camden

Readings and Activities for Tuesday, April 20

Posted by William FitzGerald on April 17, 2010


For Tuesday’s class, we are reading the challenging but amazing essay, “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle” by the social and literary critic Kenneth Burke. You can find the essay here:


You can find it on your own through Googlebooks. It appears in the book, The Philosophy of Literary Form.

I am asking you to respond to this reading in advance of class by posting a brief quote from the text and offering a commentary.

Finally, I place below the two texts I profiled last week for their figurative elements but then–D’oh!–neglected to give to you when I asked you to attempt an imitation. I’ll put them on the course blog as well, but here they are:

What figurative elements, nameable or otherwise, are operating in these two instances of prose?

It is virtue, yea virtue, gentlemen, that maketh gentlemen; that maketh the poor rich, the base-born
noble, the subject a sovereign, the deformed beautiful, the sick whole, the weak strong, the most
miserable most happy. There are two principal and peculiar gifts in the nature of man, knowledge and
reason; the one commandeth, and the other obeyeth: these things neither the whirling wheel of
fortune can change, neither the deceitful cavillings of worldlings separate, neither sickness abate,
neither age abolish.
— Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit, John Lyly (1579)

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching
network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and
irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare
the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is
too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use
energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less
profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is
inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They
will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met.
— 2009 Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama


One Response to “Readings and Activities for Tuesday, April 20”

  1. Jonathan Randall said

    “‘The more I argued…been true the day before.'”(197)

    If the Germans were bystanders who watched the Jewish people swindle their way through situations, and then ultimately the Germans persecute them as a scapegoat to their problems as a result of World War I, then why was this sudden punishment not stopped immeidately by the Allied powers and the rest of the world? Why the shy eye if people are suffering? Why the indifference?

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