Presidential Rhetoric and the Power of Definition



This feature addresses three questions: (1) How do we understand the nature of presidential rhetoric and its effects? (2) What does presidential rhetoric do? (3) How do we know? From the perspective of the humanities, rhetoric is a complex transaction among speakers or writers, texts or performance, audiences, and critics. Effects are better understood as invitations to respond. A key function of presidential rhetoric is to define social reality. Eight case studies explore how presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush have relied on rhetorical definition.