Complete Story

TRIECE , Mary E.

Spring 2003, pages 5-24

Appealing to the "Intelligent Worker": Rhetorical Reconstitution and the Influence of Firsthand Experience in the Rhetoric of Leonora O'Reilly

Abstract:This article examines the rhetoric of labor activist Leonora O'Reilly for the ways she reconstituted her audience through a second persona of "intelligent workers." By balancing concrete contextualization with abstract visions of a future democracy, O'Reilly established identification with her audience of young, uneducated, poor women while simultaneously encouraging them to become a group of outspoken agents capable of transforming their oppressive circumstances. This article also explores the ways firsthand experiences influenced the process of reconstitution. To recognize the influences of extra-verbal phenomena does not downplay rhetoric's role in the creation of an audience but rather calls attention to the dialectical relationship between language and an extra-discursive reality and encourages scholars to examine a number of factors which can precipitate, impede, or otherwise shape the process of reconstitution.

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