Gilyard, “Aspects of AA Rhetoric as a Field”

Gilyard, Keith. “Introduction: Aspects of African American Rhetoric as a Field.” African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Ed. Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007. (18 pages)

Gilyard offers an overview of typologies the have guided our understanding of African American rhetoric. He begins by pointing to typologies that use classical, Aristotelian rhetoric (i.e. the canons) as a means of organizing AA rhetorical discourse. But he begins to notes how some scholars—particularly in the 20th century—began to chart out a rhetorical tradition that is uniquely typified for AA oratory. Gilyard alludes to jubilee rhetoric, consisting of emotional appeals that build in intensity by noting both optimistic tones and tragic history alternately. The study of the Civil Rights movement in latter years saw the study of other kinds of rhetoric such as agitational rhetoric, rhetoric meant to be essentially aggressive towards whites while simultaneously unifying toward Africans. The champion of such an approach was Smith (Asante); he offers a classification scheme of strategies, themes, and audiences. This agitational rhetoric also branches into Afrocentric concepts (as mentioned in McPhail). Such an approach might be characterized as separatist rhetoric. Finally, Gilyard alludes to the work of Smitherman who takes a linguistic approach to study black discourse, particularly inclusive of black women (see also Logan).

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