Reception Histories: Rhetoric, Pragmatism, and American Cultural Politics

Mailloux, Steven

Published by Cornell University Press, 1998
ISBN 10: 0801435056 / ISBN 13: 9780801435058
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Synopsis: In his earlier Rhetorical Power, Steven Mailloux presented an innovative and challenging strategy for combining critical theory and cultural studies. That book has stimulated wide-ranging discussion and debate among diverse audiences―students and specialists in American studies, speech communications, rhetoric/composition, law, education, biblical studies, and especially literary theory and cultural criticism. Reception Histories marks a further development of Mailloux's influential critical project, as he demonstrates how rhetorical hermeneutics uses rhetoric to practice theory by doing history. Reception Histories works out in detail what rhetorical hermeneutics means in terms of poststructuralist theory (Part One), nineteenth-century U.S. cultural studies (Part Two), and the contemporary history of curricular reform within the so-called Culture Wars (Part Three). Mailloux situates, defends, and elaborates the theory he first proposed in Rhetorical Power, and he exemplifies it with a new series of provocative reception histories. He also both critiques and reconceptualizes the version of reader response criticism he developed in his first book, Interpretive Conventions. Throughout Reception Histories, Mailloux demonstrates his distinctive blend of neopragmatism and cultural rhetoric study. By tracing the rhetorical paths of thought, this book offers a new way to read the current volatile debates over higher education and contributes its own original proposals for shaping the future of the humanities.

Review: "Essential reading for anyone interested in 19th-century American literature and cultural politics."―Mark Bould, Scope: An On-Line Journal of Film Studies

"Steven Mailloux's impressive new book is one of a number of recent books arguing for a return to rhetoric in literary studies. . . . This is an extremely erudite, well-written, and valuable book. The treatment of both theory and practice in the first two parts of the book will prove invaluable to our thinking about rhetorical theory, the new pragmatism, and the challenges of remaining aware of the historical circumstances of reading."―Paul Jay, Modern Philology

"This book is the instantiation of Steven Mailloux's argument that we use rhetoric to practice theory to do history, a deceptively simple formulation of a complex and important intellectual project. Mailloux has long been an advocate of a particular kind of cultural studies, one that uses a range of rhetorical theory (uses rhetoric) in its analysis of texts (practices theory) as a way of interpreting and reconstructing an aspect of a particular culture at a particular time (docs history). His motive for advocating his particular approach is both local and world-scale: for Mailloux this fusion of rhetoric and cultural studies can serve as an intellectual framework within which English departments might live more productive and successful lives; but beyond the local, Mailloux sees in this mode of study the possibility of cross-cultural communication and understanding."―Charles Moran, MELUS

"Reception Histories is an important programmatic statement by a critic whose views of the future of English studies and of the humanities command great interest."―Don Bialostosky, The Pennsylvania State University

"In this brilliant synthesis of rhetoric, history, philosophy, and pedagogy, Steven Mailloux answers the critics of postmodern theory by showing how we can have a rhetorical and pragmatic view of truth without succumbing to a cynical relativism. Mailloux also shows how bringing the debates about truth and power into the classroom can challenge and enlighten our students."―Gerald Graff, University of Illinois at Chicago

"In this powerful and unusual book, Mailloux joins histories of rhetoric and hermeneutic theory, 19th-century American cultural studies, and contemporary battles over curriculum reform in an illuminating reconceptualization of humanistic theory and practice at the end of the century. The scope of the project is daunting. Moving with ease from the ancient Greek sophists and pragmatic philosophy to the current Culture Wars and his own forays into academic politics at Syracuse, Mailloux enacts a cleverly chiasmic scholarly synthesis: a theory of rhetorical practice and the practice of theory in history. Marked by clarity of argument and prophetic passion, this inventive project will speak to scholars interested in rhetoric, philosophy, literary theory and criticism, difference studies, and academic politics. It secures Mailloux's status as public intellectual of the first order."―Susan C. Jarratt, University of California, Irvine

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Title: Reception Histories: Rhetoric, Pragmatism, ...
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: very good

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