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Workshop 23: Writing New Histories of U.S. Presidential Rhetoric & Foreign Policy

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Allison M. Prasch, University of Wisconsin-Madison:
Mary E. Stuckey, Penn State University:

The history of U.S. foreign policy—and the words and actions U.S. presidents use to justify these policies—is a troubled one. Structured by logics of settler colonialism, racism, imperialism, neoliberalism, and American exceptionalism, this terrain is messy, complicated, and difficult to navigate. In the conclusion to his germinal essay “The Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy,” Philip Wander observed that “[t]he rhetoric of American foreign policy lends itself to cynical and bitter commentaries on lies, half-truths, and macabre scenarios.” The critic’s task, Wander concluded, was to “get beyond denouncing the devil-theory” and instead “to raise real issues and to assist in the creation of publics able and…willing to rise above parochial concerns.”

Almost forty years after Wander’s influential essay, rhetorical critics are faced with similar—if not more urgent—questions about rhetoric’s role in the doing and making of U.S. foreign policy. Drawing on work from rhetoric, history, political science, and critical geography, this workshop will investigate how U.S. presidents talk—or don’t talk—about foreign policy and consider the questions, theories, and methods scholars use to write about this discourse. Participants will examine the overarching themes animating U.S. foreign policy discourse from 1630 to the present and consider what it means to write ethical and responsible rhetorical histories of U.S. presidential rhetoric and foreign policy.

To prepare for this workshop, participants will read exemplars of this type of critical scholarship and prepare their own working paper on a related topic. Workshop sessions will be divided between group discussion of the assigned readings and workshopping of papers in small groups.

Allison M. PraschAllison M. Prasch is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Politics & Culture in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she researches and teaches rhetorical theory & criticism, U.S. presidential rhetoric, foreign policy, and the Cold War. Her work has been published in various outlets, including the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Rhetoric & Public Affairs. She is the 2017 recipient of the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award from the National Communication Association and the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Society for the History of Rhetoric. Her current book project, The Global Rhetorical Presidency: Cold War Rhetoric on the World Stage, examines how U.S. presidents use their rhetoric abroad to extend the United States’ military, geopolitical, and psychological dominance around the world.

Mary E. Stuckey Mary E. Stuckey specializes in political and presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American Indian politics. She is the author, editor, or co-editor of fourteen books and author or coauthor of roughly 80 essays and book chapters. She has received the NCA Distinguished Scholar Award, the Michael M. Osborn Teacher/Scholar Award, the Rose B. Johnson Award (with Zoe Hess-Carney), the Roderick P. Hart Outstanding Book Award, the Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award, and the Bruce E. Gronbeck Political Communication Award. She has served as editor of the Southern Communication Journal, as Editor of the Quarterly Journal of Speech and as Interim Editor of Rhetoric and Public Affairs. Her current book project is on the history of deplorable elections.

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