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Summer 2000, pages 55-72

Religion, Science and Rhetoric in Revolutionary America: the Case of Dr. Benjamin Rush

Abstract: Though early American revolutionary and scientist Benjamin Rush (1746-1813) never wrote a formal treatise on rhetoric, his medical lectures and reform essays constitute an important site for the reception of rhetorics in revolutionary America. Focusing on Rush as a cultural register rather than a biographical subject enables historians to observe more immediately the cultural uses of rhetoric, the ways that individuals encountered, synthesized, and utilized assumptions about language to fashion identities at specific historical moments. Rush's early encounter with Great Awakening oratory, his scientific training in Edinburgh, and his participation in republican politics all record new attitudes toward language in eighteenth-century America.

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