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LONGAKER, Mark Garret

Summer 2006, pages 281 - 308

Idealism and Early-American Rhetoric

17th- and 18th-century philosophical separation of the reflecting mind from reality often resulted in a hostility towards rhetoric. However, this article demonstrates that American idealism yielded a rich conversation about rhetoric's place in the search for divine knowledge. Using Kenneth Burke's theory of attitudes' linguistic dialectical constitution, this article closely analyzes two 18th-century idealist philosophies (those of Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Johnson of Connecticut) and their related rhetorical theories. Seeing the interaction between the American idealist philosophical and rhetorical traditions leads us to reconsider the impact of idealist philosophy on the entire tradition of American rhetorical practice and theory.

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