Rhetoric’s Pragmatism by Steven Mailloux Summary
For over thirty years, Steven Mailloux has championed and advanced the field of rhetorical hermeneutics, a historically and theoretically informed approach to textual interpretation. This volume collects fourteen of his most recent influential essays on the methodology, plus an interview. Following from the proposition that rhetorical hermeneutics uses rhetoric to practice theory by doing history, this book examines a diverse range of texts from literature, history, law, religion, and cultural studies. Through four sections, Mailloux explores the theoretical writings of Heidegger, Burke, and Rorty, among others; Jesuit educational treatises; and products of popular culture such as Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In doing so, he shows how rhetorical perspectives and pragmatist traditions work together as two mutually supportive modes of understanding, and he demonstrates how the combination of rhetoric and interpretation works both in theory and in practice. Theoretically, rhetorical hermeneutics can be understood as a form of neopragmatism. Practically, it focuses on the production, circulation, and reception of written and performed communication. A thought-provoking collection from a preeminent literary critic and rhetorician, Rhetoric’s Pragmatism assesses the practice and value of rhetorical hermeneutics today and the directions in which it might head. Scholars and students of rhetoric and communication studies, critical theory, literature, law, religion, and American studies will find Mailloux’s arguments enlightening and essential.